The progress made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in maintaining professional standards, protecting clients and delivering its objectives has been set out in its Annual Review.
Published today, Thursday 22 June, the SRA’s Annual Review reflects on its work from the last practising year, 2015/16. It also sets out how the SRA is working in the public interest to meet its strategic objectives, including a major reform programme to create a more open, modern and competitive legal services market.
The review highlights improvements in operational performance, including reductions in the time taken to authorise firms and complete investigations. In the last two years the average time:
• to conclude a disciplinary investigation has fallen by 16 percent (Sept 2014 to Sept 2016) – from 102 to 86 days
• to authorise firms had dropped by 60 percent (Sept 2014 to Sept 2016) – from an average of 74 to 30 days
• to authorise alternative business structures (ABSs), which allow non-lawyers to own law firms, has reduced by 38 percent (2013/14 to 2015/16) – from 111 days to 69 days
Other facts and sector trends highlighted in the report include:
• Complaints about incompetence, negligence and delays are the most commonly made about the profession. Taking unfair advantage of a non-client, and intentionally misleading the court are respectively the second and third most common complaints
• The most reported issues from solicitors themselves is about bogus firms and identity theft
• 30,000 solicitors contacted the SRA’s Ethics Guidance helpline, with confidentiality and disclosure the most common issue
• The number of interventions – the forced closure of a firm by the SRA to protect clients – is well below the 2008/2010 peak, when there was a steep rise on the back of the economic downturn. More than half of interventions (21 out of 37) last year were on the grounds of suspected dishonesty
• Most payouts from the Compensation Fund are because of money stolen from estates – £3.9 million out of £10.3 million total claims
The review also sets out on the number of solicitors and the firms they work in, as well as the number of disciplinary actions taken when individuals do not meet the high professional standards set by the SRA.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “This review provides a good summary of the breadth of our work last year. It shows we are continually improving how we operate, but of course, there is still more for us to do.
“Whether we are making our rules simpler, reforming how solicitors qualify or taking action against the small minority of solicitors who let the profession down, central to our work is a sharp focus on high professional standards. With this Review, we aim to show in a clear, open way how we are putting that into practice.”