The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to launch a research project on the “competence” of personal injury lawyers, it has emerged.
In a paper for this week’s board meeting, the regulator said the aim was to “gain an understanding of the profile of firms/entities providing legal services to personal injury claimants and discover the main changes firms have implemented” in response to LASPO.
The SRA said the research would “profile the current personal injury market from both supply and demand-side perspectives” and the “decisions and processes implemented by firms to respond to legislative and market changes”.
The regulator said the research would combine an internal study with an external consultation and survey of claimant and defendant PI firms, and aim to “identify examples of good and poor solicitors’ practices” within the sector.
“This information will be used to gain an insight into the competence of solicitors in PI.”
The SRA added that work on the project was in progress and it would be delivered in the spring of 2016.
The paper did not mention the huge changes announced by chancellor George Osborne last week, raising the small claims limit for personal injury cases to £5,000 and scrapping general damages for whiplash.
Speaking after this week’s board meeting on the potential impact of these changes, Paul Philip, chief executive of the SRA, said: “We don’t know at the moment. It may be that if it begins to bite and firms go under, we will have to put a focus on that, but we have no evidence about this yet.”
Other research featured in the SRA’s 2015-16 programme includes work on firm’s “perceptions of SRA enforcement” and whether it is a “credible deterrent to non-compliance”.
The paper said the regulator would analyse recent SRA data on non-compliance, actions taken as a result and outcomes. It would then “profile non-compliant firms” and study why they were not complying.
A further research project mentioned in the paper was an online survey on the “role of work-based experience” in the training of solicitors. The report is to be completed early in 2016.
On diversity, the regulator commented on the “dearth of robust quantitative analysis” on the issue, and said it intended to hold a workshop with academics and others to explore “gaps in our knowledge”. The SRA offered co-funding for “innovative and methodologically sound” research.