The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is seeking to establish a £3 million contingency fund to cover the cost of redundancies among its 600 staff, Legal Futures can reveal.
Implementation of a new IT system and the introduction of outcomes-focused regulation  (OFR) next year are the reasons why the SRA has requested the Law Society to put the money aside.
SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said they had “deliberately put in the largest contingency figure possible so it does not constrain the changes”. Any money not used will be returned to the Law Society. He described 2011 as a “year of investment” in the SRA, leading to an organisation that will have a “significantly lower cost base” from 2012.
The SRA’s annual budget (direct expenditure) is £48.7 million, funded by the solicitors’ profession.
The SRA’s “enabling programme”  – a £22m investment in new technology – will lead to the loss of at least 50 administrative staff, Mr Townsend said. The programme continues to reach its milestones on time and within budget, and is on track to launch a new, integrated IT platform at the end of January 2011.
In preparation for OFR – which will require different skill sets from SRA staff – all employees are currently going through an assessment centre that produces a report on their strengths and weaknesses as set against new “behavioural competencies”. Mr Townsend emphasised that the assessments are not a matter of pass or fail.
Jobs are also being reassessed and in spring 2011 a decision will be taken on which ones are changing so much that staff will have to reapply for them. Mr Townsend predicted that a “significant number” of roles will fall into this category and it is this that will lead to redundancies. For example, OFR means there will be “fewer people doing lower-level risk work”. The size of the contingency fund is to “make sure we end up with the right organisation”, he added.
Mr Townsend stressed that the aim was to use existing staff in the new SRA “as much as possible” and minimise external recruitment, both to be fair to staff and also because it was cheaper. Redundancies will be on standard Law Society terms.