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SRA: clear framework could help demonstrate fairness to BME firms

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to ask solicitors how they judge the seriousness of misconduct offences in a new initiative on professional standards.

The move, to be launched at the SRA’s board meeting in Birmingham today, will result in a policy statement and decision-making framework for the regulator’s staff.

The SRA said a clear framework could help it in “demonstrating fairness” towards BME firms.

According to papers published ahead of the meeting, external consultants will run a survey on standards with a “representative sample” of the profession this month and next.

“The survey will comprise a set of short scenarios around solicitors’ conduct, and will gather views on issues such as the seriousness of an offence, and factors which may exacerbate this such as intent and harm. This will feed into the development of both the policy statement and the framework.”

The SRA said that from October 2015 to January 2016 it would run a full consultation on its draft policy statement and framework.

“This will be supported by a series of events around the country, some in conjunction with local and regional law societies.”

The regulator said that Professor Gus John’s report on disproportionality in the its approach to BME firms last year showed that “a lack of clarity about professional standards and thresholds for action may adversely affect the fair and equal treatment” of BME solicitors.

“Providing a clear framework for decision-making and improving consistency will provide a mechanism for monitoring and demonstrating fairness in our approach.”

The SRA said it would also seek the views of the public and consumers on professional standards through a “range of avenues”, including by working with Citizens Advice.

The regulator added that a clear decision-making framework would improve the “consistency and quality” of decisions by staff and increase confidence in the profession.

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