SRA backs calls for separation of legal representatives and regulators

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued a statement welcoming the Government’s intention to make regulatory bodies independent from representative bodies.

The Government intend to consult on separating the roles within the legal profession to “create a fairer, more balanced regulatory regime for England and Wales that encourages competition”. The consultation is intended to launch in the coming spring.

Enid Rowlands, SRA Chair, said: “In our view, a key requirement for the regulation of any profession or market in the public interest is the confidence of the public. If the regulator does not have public confidence, it cannot do its job. The key to public confidence is independence and public accountability.

“It is impossible to see how a regulator could have the confidence of the public if it is also the body that represents those who are regulated. The public deserves proper independent regulation, and the profession deserves proper representation. But the two functions must be, and must be seen to be, separate.

“Modern regulation has to be independent and fully accountable to the public. We welcome the Government’s proposals and are looking forward to working with others as we explore the detail.”

The Government are also hoping to encourage more alternative business models to enter the industry. Citing research by the SRA, the report entitled “Boosting competition to bring down bills for families and firms” stated:

“The Government wants to ensure that innovative businesses are able to enter the market, providing greater choice for consumers.

“Alternative business models are around 15 percentage points more likely to introduce new legal services than other types of regulated solicitors’ firms.”

Responding to the Government’s announcement, Chief Executive of the Law Society, Catherine Dixon, said: “We support the Government’s aim to ensure a fair and balanced regulatory regime for legal services.

“However, public protection demands that setting of rules and standards for legal services must be independent of government and ensure that there is no perception, or otherwise, that government is interfering with the independence of the legal profession. Freedom from government intervention is an essential cornerstone of our justice system and of the rule of law.

“England and Wales is recognised as the jurisdiction of choice but that standing is threatened by any suggestion that government is able to fetter the independence of the legal profession. Any such perception, real or actual, would impact on our standing internationally and threaten the direct economic contribution of £23 billion made by solicitors.

“The legal profession must be free to set the standards and rules under which it operates, and also own legal education and training so that standards are led by the people who practise law.”

 

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