Rob Hailstone of the Bold Legal Group calls on the SRA to extend consultation deadlines

On the 7th May the SRA launched four consultations that will have far reaching affects for Law firms both large and small. Yet it only allowed a six week period for responses.
The SRA proposes significant changes to professional indemnity insurance, the Compensation Fund, accountants’ reports and multi-disciplinary practices and wants to implement the majority of the proposals from October this year.
Hailstone says: “Six weeks is just not long enough for busy, overburdened lawyers to get to grips with the issues contained in these consultations. I have been badgering my member firms (and others) to respond for the last two weeks. I have at last received a number of responses myself, a few of which are set out below.”
“No one wants to email the SRA!  It feels like poking an angry bear with a stick.”
“The lack of response from me lies in complete exasperation and frustration regarding my initial thoughts and fumbling about where to begin as well as – is it a done deal and how many ‘lone voices’ will feel that their input will actually be heard and make any difference at all.”
“The trouble with the SRA consultation is none of us believe that our comments or views will make any difference.  Our views have not made any difference in the past so why should they now? 
It takes time to respond to consultations and I expect like most I already spend at least 50% of my time doing “management” and as a predominately property lawyer this time of year is manic with exchanges and completions.  If I spend time responding to consultations then I risk not meeting client expectations and having a complaint to LEO which will add more pressure to the amount of management time……”
“I’ve spent most of my life as a solicitor reacting to life threatening legislation, regulations etc., many of which have turned into ‘a storm in a teacup’, but I don’t think any such assumptions should be made this time. The CPD and PII proposals are not attracting good publicity outside the profession, particularly with lenders and PII providers. Only a cynic would say that the SRA’s consultation is a charade!”
“The SRA consultations are important but they take time to respond which I’m short of at the moment. I’m also cynical about these consultations as I have responded to others and it hasn’t made a blind bit of difference. The time when I get to read and deal with this type of stuff is usually on a Sunday afternoon. My handbag is stuffed with bits I’ve ripped out of the Gazette and Law Society Practice notes that I keep meaning to read.”
“I have already decided that the game is up for all but the largest firms of solicitors, and that the way forward for High Street conveyancing is through Licensed Conveyancers — and the SRA’s thrashing around is contributing dramatically to that. Indeed, the starkly different approaches of the SRA and the CLC demonstrate the difference: while the SRA is all about bureaucrats defending their turf, the CLC is all about helping firms comply and enabling them to provide a good service to clients. It is like a breath of fresh air! So, no, I am not concerned about the consultations: they are the last nails in the coffin of “real” solicitors.”
Hailstone continues: “These responses make sad reading and are, I am sure, a good representation of what most firms feel. Unless the SRA receive a certain number of responses (33% plus of the number of law firms in existence maybe) by the 18th June I strongly suggest that it extends the consultation period by at least three months.
I would also suggest that the way a lot of firms feel about their regulator is quite disturbing and also needs addressing.”
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