'A Question Of Trust': Some Thoughts On The SRA's Consultation

Author:Mr Fergal Cathie and Edward Scandrett
Profession:Clyde & Co

The decade since the enactment of the Legal Services Act 2007 (the "LSA") has seen significant regulatory reform in the legal sector, including the Solicitors Regulation Authority ("SRA")'s move from a prescriptive, rules-based Code of Conduct to a more flexible, outcomes-focused Code in 2011. Reform continues apace, with a number of consultations having taken place in the last year or so, on issues ranging from education, innovation and the Accounts Rules to the shape and content of the SRA Handbook.

The "Question of Trust" campaign

One aspect of this has been the SRA's "Question of Trust" campaign, which ran from September 2015 to January 2016. The stated aims of the campaign included to seek views on the factors which the SRA should take into account when considering the appropriate response to breaches of regulatory standards, and ultimately to improve transparency and predictability in the outcomes of the SRA's enforcement processes.

The campaign canvassed the views of 5,400 people (both solicitors and non-solicitors), many of whom responded to an online survey which asked them to rank the seriousness of differing levels of misconduct, by reference to various scenarios. The survey sat alongside a more formal consultation which sought views on a draft framework outlining the types of sanction which might result from various different breaches of the core professional principles. The consultation document also asked questions about the significance of considerations such as a solicitor's state of mind (for example, intent as against recklessness or inadvertence), whether harm was caused, and the vulnerability of the client, as well as whether matters relevant to an individual's behaviour in private should be taken into account when assessing issues such as want of integrity or professional judgement.

The full findings of the consultation were published on 30 March 2017 and the SRA says it will use these findings to "refine our approach to how we judge the seriousness of offences and what action we may take". In particular, the SRA states that these findings will inform the development of a revised enforcement policy, a consultation on which is expected to be published later this year.

Some key points

Salient points that emerge from the responses to the campaign include:

The public's perception of the importance of information security

The survey responses indicated that solicitors take information security issues less seriously than...

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