The legal sector has seen significant changes in recent years. In 2007 the conveyancing sector took a massive hit due to the housing market crash which affected the entire market causing many law firms to close down, whilst others struggled to survive in the market they were left in.
Most recently changes in legal aid, legislation and a ban on referral fees (in personal injury cases), to name a few, have impacted the legal sector causing further financial stability issues for many. For many firms these changes have meant that they have had to sink or swim. In such unstable times it is important that firms ensure that they are working towards improving their position in the market, by gaining a competitive edge, client satisfaction and profitability.
One of the main factors for survival for firms in today’s market is achieving Outcomes Focused Regulations (OFR) in line with the objectives set out in the Legal Services Act 2007 and ensuring that they keep consumers best interests at the forefront.
In January 2011, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority published a report titled “What do consumers want and need from Outcomes- focused Regulation — An Overview of SRA research findings.” The purpose of the report was “…to make sure consumers in England and Wales are well protected and supported when they use legal services.” The research was helpful in that the interviewees were consumers who had used a legal service in the past. The research found that timescales, costs and service were the most important factors when achieving a good outcome for the majority of clients.
Outcomes Focused Regulation has been in force since October 2011. Statistics show that compliance with Outcomes Focused Regulation over the past couple of years has been slow and a large proportion of firms have found it hard to embrace fully. Whilst some firms have found it hard to execute the changes others have not had the time to fully implement the new regulations, all of which will have a negative impact on the firm in the long term.
The recently published regulatory decisions by the SRA shows that between the period 19th July 2013 to 23rd August 2013 the SRA made a number of decisions in relation to individuals and firms; publishing 50 of its decisions. The majority of the decisions made were for control of the practice or closure and other decisions included sanctions, prosecution and agreement. It is important to note that whilst the decisions made did not necessarily mean a firm/individual had breached a principle, rather the SRA felt it was in the public interest to make the decision and took the step as a protective measure. The results highlight a short period (July — August) in which a number of firms received penalties; firms need to ensure that they are compliant by adhering to rules and regulations to ensure they will not be penalised in the long run.
Furthermore, the Solicitors Regulatory Outcomes report of earlier this year (dated June 2013) showed a reduction in fines, reprimands and suspension since June 2012 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). However, the number of solicitors that had been struck off against last year’s figures had risen by fifty-five percent. If a case is seen to be very serious and the SRA feel that their powers aren’t sufficient they will refer the case to the SDT as the SDT has a wider range of powers to pass sanctions. It is therefore paramount that firms ensure that they are complying with regulatory requirements.
Legal Eye has assisted a vast number of firms across the country to shape up their procedures, policies and risks management, offering compliance advice to them and preparing documented audit trails in order that they comply with current regulations.
Legal Eye is proud to assist firms in their compliance needs and has recently scored extremely well in their client satisfaction survey results. The survey results showed “86% of our surveyed customers would actively recommend us and 93% of our surveyed customers were delighted/happy with the service received.” Legal Eye is delighted with the survey results and strives to meet new challenges and has at its core a client focused outlook.