The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has committed to opening up its register of solicitors and law firms to comparison websites, while the Legal Ombudsman has today made its decisions available in a downloadable format, in line with the open data agenda pursued by the Legal Services Consumer Panel.
The panel wants the regulators to put a core and reusable set of minimum data in the public domain, and in a letter to the panel, SRA policy director Crispin Passmore said that its 2015 IT programme included the development of an “online register of our regulated community that can also provide a feed to comparison sites”.
In the meantime, “we are currently planning to create a data extract that covers as many of the requested fields as possible”, which he said should be in place by Christmas.
It follows the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, which has already published a spreadsheet on its website, while today the Legal Ombudsman has made its decisions available in a CSV file.
Panel chair Elizabeth Davies said: “This feels like a really significant step which will allow comparison websites to provide quality of service information alongside the core regulatory data.”
The Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg) has also made a written commitment to publish information in a reusable form.
Ms Davies said: “Not every regulator is fully on board yet, but this progress is really positive and there’s scope to build on it in the future, with talk of publishing all the information in one place, for example on the Legal Choices website.
“The quest for open data has been at the heart of the panel’s policies since 2011. Transparency is absolutely essential for consumers if they’re going to be able to make informed choices, protect themselves from harm and have confidence in the regulators. We have consistently targeted this important issue, pushing it up the policy agenda of both the regulators and the LSB.
“This last year has been very much a joint effort with the LSB in ensuring open data is recognised as a regulatory priority.”
Ms Davies added: “Progress may not have always been at the pace we would like but we’re getting there and the movement and momentum is now undeniable.”
Ownership of the register of solicitors has been a longstanding debate between the Law Society and the SRA, with the Law Society using it for commercial benefit to sell mailing lists.