SRA business plan and budget 2022/23 consultation – Law Society response

In our response to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s business plan, we welcome its strategic priorities and the extension of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund. However, we’re concerned by plans to increase its fining powers by more than 1,000% and introduce new regulatory powers on wellbeing.

The proposals

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) business plan 2022/23 reflects the SRA’s three strategic priorities:

  • setting and maintaining high standards for the profession
  • supporting the adoption of technology and innovation
  • prioritising initiatives that positively impact access to justice and enhance equality, diversity and inclusion within the profession and across the legal services sector

The SRA’s workstreams for 2022/23 include:

  • completing Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) assessments, monitoring SQE impact and finalising its approach to publishing candidate performance data
  • continuing to improve advocacy standards and developing the Police Station Representatives Accreditation Scheme around a statement of expected behaviours
  • enhancing its insight to inform their approach towards assessing continuing competence
  • progressing actions resulting from the evaluation of the SRA Transparency Rules and Standards and Regulations
  • delivering post-consultation outcomes on SRA’s fining powers, publication of regulatory decisions, and health and wellbeing considerations within law firms
  • consulting on rules to protect consumers from excessive fees during certain financial service claims
  • enhancing work on anti-money laundering, with proposals to expand the number of firm inspections, refining risk rating methodology and responding to any new legislative requirements
  • continuing work to deliver the Competition and Market Authorities’ recommendations to enhance transparency of information for consumers, including improving quality indicators, alongside learning from the Legal Service Board’s policy statement

The SRA also sought views on its budget, practising certificate fees and the compensation fund.

The SRA proposes that its portion of the practising certificate fee would reduce from £185 to £181 in 2022/23.

Our view

The SRA’s priorities

We’re pleased the SRA will continue work on policy areas that aligns with our priorities, including:

  • the SQE
  • anti-money laundering
  • diversity and inclusion
  • technology and innovation

We’re keen to work closely with the SRA to maximise efforts and avoid duplication.

We’re also encouraged by its plans to engage in debates and speak up on:

  • access to justice
  • environmental, social and governance issues
  • wider challenges facing the legal sector

SRA support for our campaign for investment in the justice system would be particularly welcome, especially in legal aid as a central component of increasing access to justice.

We’re also open to collaboration around climate change policy and horizon scanning to combine our experiences and specialisms and help members navigate future regulatory complexity and anticipate change.

In principle, we welcome prioritisation of work and resource on the SRA’s core regulatory function of ensuring high professional standards of competence.

Solicitors Indemnity Fund

We’re pleased the SRA decided to extend the life of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) for a further 12 months after hearing our concerns and those of the profession and consumers.

Approach to fining powers and wellbeing

However, we have real concerns about the SRA’s approach to areas such as fining powers and health and wellbeing considerations within law firms.

We’re particularly disappointed that the SRA intends to seek an increase of its fining powers by more than 1,000% without balancing these changes with appropriate safeguards.

Similarly, we do not support the SRA’s proposals of new regulatory powers to address the issues around wellbeing.

We’re keen to continue to engage with the SRA, sharing insights into members’ views and experiences to make sure the SRA’s proposals are informed by evidence, robustly impact assessed, fair and proportionate.

Next steps

The consultation closed on 17 June.

We look forward to working with the SRA on the issues affecting our members now and in the future.

Read about SRA’s business plan 2022/23 consultation