SRA claims majority of public support independent regulation

82% of adults in England Wales say solicitors should be regulated independently, according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The survey of 1,810 conducted by ComRes found 86% of adults in England and Wales believe solicitors should be regulated with 68% also saying they would be more likely to trust a profession regulated independently.

When it comes to making a hypothetical complaint about solicitors, 69% say they are more likely to make a complaint to a regulator fully independent of solicitors, whilst eight percent said they would feel more comfortable making a complaint “if the regulator is not fully independent of solicitors”. 12% said they would fee equally comfortable in either situation with 11% saying they didn’t know.

Responding to the question “I support Government attempts to make the regulator of solicitors fully independent”, 77% either strongly or tended to agree, with 2% answering negatively. 14% neither agreed nor disagreed and 8% didn’t know.

SRA CEO, Paul Philip, said: “This research shows that the public overwhelmingly support independent regulation. Public confidence is key and, as this polling shows, people say they will have greater trust in their solicitor if they know they are independently regulated.

“I am clear that separating out regulator and representative body would not only meet public expectations, but would enhance the important role of the Law Society in making sure the voice of solicitors is heard and respected.”

Responding, Law Society Chief Executive Catherine Dixon, said: “We support independent regulation. Regulation is about the minimum regulatory rules which should apply to the whole market to protect consumers. This is very different from professional standards of behaviour, conduct and ethics which should be the responsibility of the profession as they are best placed to raise these standards.

“There is an opportunity to put in place better and simpler regulation which applies to all legal services, as currently many legal services providers are not regulated. This means that purchasers of some legal services are not protected.

“Currently the regulatory maze is complex. There are numerous regulators of legal services and there is an opportunity to consolidate to save cost. There is also confusion because currently there is a very broad definition of regulation which includes regulatory rules, professional standards and conduct, ethics, entry into the profession and awarding the professional title.

“Paradoxically, the most qualified and trained are the most regulated; the least qualified and trained are not regulated. This is a mistake. There is an opportunity to redefine what regulation should cover to ensure that it is simple and better, and applies to all legal services. Regulation should not include professional standards and conduct, nor entry into the profession and awarding a professional title. In order to drive professional standards the responsibility needs to be with the profession. This will ensure that the reputation of the profession at home and internationally is secured and that England and Wales remains the jurisdiction of choice and the legal profession is seen to be independent from Government, enabling it to uphold the rule of law.”

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