SRA Launches New Strategy Aimed at Enhancing Confidence in Legal Services

On 10th May 2023, the SRA announced a new consultation inviting input on their 2023-2026 Corporate Strategy. This builds on the current 2020-2023 Corporate Strategy after discussion with the SRA’s Board, SRA staff, and a broad spectrum of stakeholders within and outside the sector. The SRA’s overarching stated mission statement for 2023-2026 is “enhancing confidence in legal services”; this is further broken down into four high-level objectives as outlined below.

The SRA’s Four high-level objectives

To enhance confidence in the legal services sector between 2023 and 2026, the SRA has stated that it will:

  1. Deliver high professional standards – establishing, upholding and promoting high professional standards for legal services providers in a manner that is fair, proportionate and robust.
  2. Strengthen risk-based and proactive regulation – delivering and supporting improved regulation through a proactive and risk-based approach based on solid data, insights and intelligence.
  3. Support legal services innovation and technology – actively supporting innovation and technology that will ensure the improved delivery of, and access to, legal services, especially for individuals and small businesses, and
  4. Be an authoritative and inclusive organisation meeting the needs of the public, consumers, those they regulate and its staff – The SRA state they will achieve this by placing their customers at the heart of all they do and by becoming a more “authoritative, inclusive and responsive” organisation.

Announcing the new consultation, SRA Chair, Anna Bradley, stated:

“Much has changed since 2020, when we developed our current strategy. Yet the direction we set back then has stood up well to the huge changes and challenges we have faced, from the pandemic to economic downturn, war in Ukraine to a boom in technology…Our new strategy looks to build on this, with an ambitious and bold programme. Our mission is to enhance confidence in legal services… That’s important for access to justice, for the rule of law and for the reputation and success of the profession and law firms, both at home and internationally”.

SRA Corporate Strategy consultation

The Corporate Strategy maps out what they consider success will look like in 2026 for each of the four priorities outlined above and the key deliverables.

To achieve higher professional standards objective, the SRA intends to:

  • deliver well-functioning SQE assessments
  • improve their understanding of, and response to, the continuing competency of solicitors, firms and their employees
  • develop enhanced Transparency Rules and support resources for firms and consumers
  • deliver a timely and effective response to changes to the legislative developments in England and Wales
  • develop and progress plans of action to address the attainment gap for aspiring solicitors from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic origin background.
  • deliver a programme of work to improve progression for women and solicitors from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background, and
  • continue to improve and maintain the quality and timeliness of their investigation and enforcement work.

When it comes to strengthening risk-based and proactive regulation, by the end of the 2026 period, the SRA intends to have:

  • developed and delivered a research, horizon scanning and insight programme, including a data collection, storage and analysis strategy.
  • delivered a programme of thematic reviews on key subjects.
  • provided enhanced analysis of data about concerns raised with them.
  • produced a new data-sharing strategy that sets out clearly the data they collect and what data they share with third parties, and
  • enhanced their AML risk assessment approach

To support greater technological innovation within legal services by the end of 2026, the SRA says it will:

  • introduce a safe technology testing environment by bringing together law firms and technology partners.
  • deliver a number of technology pilots, resources and guidance for smaller law firms, and
  • continue to work collaboratively on governmental, cross-regulator and international technology innovation initiatives

And finally, with a view to becoming a more authoritative and inclusive organisation, within the 3 years period, the SRA intends to:

  • review and improve how they communicate, including how they write to and engage with customers and others, the information they make available, and the usability of their communication channels
  • deliver a continuous and measured improvement programme that results in improved processes.
  • utilise the insights from their operational and wider work to support and influence important public interest and social policy debates.
  • publish policy statements clearly setting out their stance on access to justice, and on matters relating to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), and
  • be appropriately accredited for inclusivity and environmental management.

The consultation asks whether respondents agree with each of these four strategic priorities and what they would change.

Final words

This latest consultation on the SRA 2023-2026 Corporate Strategy offers a valuable opportunity for stakeholders within the legal services sector and those who are affected by it to have their say on the future regulatory approach.

Do you think the SRA has developed a bold enough vision for legal services? Could it go further, or does it fall short of the mark?

The deadline for responses is 2nd August 2023, with a final version of the Corporate Strategy due for release in October 2023.

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