SRA business plan 2021/22 – Law Society response
The business plan
In May, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) launched a consultation on its business plan 2021/22.
The business plan sets out key priority areas for the SRA in the coming year, including:
- overseeing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) and introducing an extensive monitoring and evaluation programme
- continuing work on raising advocacy standards
- evaluating the SRA’s ongoing reform programmes, including the Standards and Regulations and Transparency Rules
- increasing monitoring of anti-money laundering arrangements
- exploring how to enhance consumer engagement with information about lawyers and legal services following the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) recommendations to increase information transparency to consumers
- work on the promotion of diversity within the profession, including research into the factors underpinning the over-representation of Black and ethnic minority solicitors within the SRA’s enforcement processes, and the attainment gap in professional assessments
- establishing an internal independent quality assurance team
- work on international recognition and lawyer transferability
- supporting the adoption of technology and innovation in the legal sector including by building new partnerships in the lawtech arena
The business plan contains details of the planned budget for 2021/22, which the SRA proposes to remain flat.
The SRA also proposes its proportion of the individual practising certificate fee to be consistent with previous years at no more than £151.
We’re running a separate consultation to consider our proposed budget and any implication on next year’s fee levels.
As part of the SRA’s commitment to monitor and assess the impacts of its work against equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations, the consultation is accompanied by initial equality impact assessments of the practising certificate fee and Compensation Fund fee.
The SRA is seeking comments on these assessments and additional information that could help to build a better understanding in relation to impacts on different groups of solicitors.
We welcome the business plan and are pleased to see the prioritisation of work and resource on the SRA’s core regulatory function of ensuring high professional standards of competence, with around 92% of SRA’s budget allocated to this work.
We’re supportive of a number of areas which are also key focuses for the Law Society such as:
- implementation of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)
- anti-money laundering
- retaining a sharp focus on EDI
- work on technology and innovation
- public legal education
- international recognition and lawyer transferability
We would welcome the opportunity to work closely with the SRA in these areas, to make sure that our efforts are appropriately coordinated, particularly in the areas of equality and diversity and technology and innovation work.
Segmentation of the market
We also welcome the proposal to more clearly segment the market when considering regulatory issues.
Segmentation is central to understanding the impact and cost of regulation across diverse parts of the legal market, including different types of legal practice or types and size of providers, and should be a crucial part of the regulatory decision-making process, alongside rigorous impact assessments.
While we support the SRA’s work on improving the quality monitoring of the SRA’s enforcement workstreams, we have concerns whether the ‘internal quality assurance team’ will be truly independent.
We recommend that the SRA should consider instructing an external auditor to ensure the decision-making process is unbiased and fully independent. This would enhance confidence and credibility within the profession.
The consultation closes on 25 June.
As the profession continues to adapt the way it works during the pandemic, we look forward to working with the SRA on the issues affecting our members today and helping them manage their business in the future.