SRA and CLC given clean bill of regulatory health

Hill: Some welcome improvements

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) have been given a clean bill of health by the Legal Services Board (LSB) in its latest assessment of regulators’ performance.

While all the regulators were generally performing well in terms of authorisation, supervision and enforcement, the LSB said “the picture is more mixed for the regulatory approach and well-led outcomes”.

The oversight regulator’s performance framework measures each regulatory body against five standards and 27 underpinning outcomes.

The LSB said the SRA had met the two outstanding outcomes highlighted in last year’s assessment. The first was monitoring of the regulated community to ensure that standards were met and, if not, that steps were taken to remedy this.

The SRA met this by “deciding on and providing a detailed plan for the implementation of changes to its advocacy standards and regulations”.

The second was on transparency of decision-making, regulatory approach, the risks its regulated community faced and how these were being mitigated, performance and costs.

The regulator had now achieved this by “providing more transparency about its decision-making processes via the publication of a range of policy documents and by publishing more board papers with fewer redactions” and by “providing further information about how its board monitors the SRA’s performance”.

This is despite the fact that the SRA no longer allows press or public access to its board meetings and has back-slid on commitments to brief journalists after the meetings.

Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, said: “We welcome the LSB’s assessment that we have met all their performance standards in a year that has been challenging for everyone.”

The CLC was also failing to meet the transparency outcome on decision-making and performance, but the LSB said this had been addressed by publication of data about its regulatory activities, complaints handling and compensation fund claims.

Stephen Ward, director of strategy at the CLC, said it was “satisfying to have met all of the LSB’s performance outcomes in this year’s assessment” and the focus for the next year would be “to maintain our level of compliance and to continue to innovate, for example by extending the information available to help consumers choose their lawyer.”

There was further good news in that all the legal regulators met the LSB’s new outcome, introduced in July this year, on regulatory independence, which applies not just to regulatory bodies like the SRA, but ‘approved regulators’ like the Law Society and Bar Council which have overall responsibility under the Legal Services Act 2007 for regulating their parts of the profession.

The LSB said: “All the bodies currently meet the standard required. This means they have demonstrated that there is separation between regulatory and representative functions.”

The LSB said that while regulatory bodies were generally performing well against the authorisation, supervision and enforcement standards, there was a lower level of achievement in meeting the standard required for outcomes under the regulatory approach and well-led standards.

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) achieved one outcome by bringing the process for authorising barristers to practise under its control.

However, the BSB, along with the Faculty Office, which regulates notaries, are the subject of LSB targeted reviews which will not finish until early next year because of their failure to provide “sufficient assurance” on the LSB’s “well led” governance standard.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales continued to fail to meet the “well led” standard, partly because it “still has no plans to publish papers or minutes of its board meetings”.

Meanwhile, IPReg, which regulates patent and trade mark attorneys, was criticised for failing to collect diversity data “for several years” or to conduct consumer or other thematic research for the past two years.

The Costs Lawyer Standards Board has met five of its nine outstanding outcomes by, among other things, changing its CPD and disciplinary rules, introducing interim suspension orders and publishing board papers.

Matthew Hill, chief executive of the LSB, said: “Independent regulation protects the public and benefits the profession, and we have seen some welcome improvement across the regulatory bodies, particularly in their enforcement of standards and increased independence. However, there continue to be areas where improvement is needed.”

    Readers Comments

  • Nil points says:

    Having reported the misconduct of a dishonest solicitor three years ago and struggled ever since to get my voice heard I cannot believe what I am reading. I have found the SRA completely unfit for purpose. The SRA’s sloppy standards are unbelievably bad. The staff work in silos. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. They start from the presmise that investigations should take months and this gives them the excuse to do nothing at all. This is tough on the clients who have suffered injustice and the solicitors who are being investigated. Just last month the SRA were criticised for taking three forensic investigations and 8 years to bring an individual before the SDT in breach of that individual’s human rights. What about the many clients’ (past and future) rights? I have found the organization is an absolute shambles. What about protecting the reputation of the legal profession and the public from harm. If the regulator has such shocking standards how can the legal profession expect to be held in high esteem? It is April 1st already?

  • Heather Soper says:

    I absolutely agree with you, the SRA are not fit for purpose, I took a dishonest solicitor to the SRA, I went to him for Legal Aid, he did legal Aid against public bodies. I was given a fake Legal Aid paper and told to sign for Legal Aid. He emailed 12pages of Terms and Conditions to me with a scanned signature, he told the SRA I was a private paying client, he put an early date on a Client Care letter that I had never seen and the SRA believed him. He told me he had to have money to read my file. The SRA saw nothing wrong with this. The LAA disagreed. I have had to take this solicitor to court.

  • EB says:

    At the last count there were 269 1 star reviews about the SRA from complainants of solicitors. I confirm I also feel badly let down by the SRA. They completely failed to consider all points of my complaints. The response was so lacking that it really felt like the person had not even read all of my complaints or correspondence between myself and the solicitor complained about. There was no detail in the response. The response came on the exact deadline day that was given to me for them to respond by. This was suspicious and the response appeared rushed and read as if the person had barely a scrap of knowledge of my original complaint. The SRA is badly letting down the public and not fit for purpose.

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