SRA releases new plan to tackle competence failures

updated on 03 February 2023

Reading time: two minutes

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has warned that firms found to be inadequate at taking continuing professional development seriously can expect enforcement action “where necessary”. 

The statement has been made as part of a wider response to the Legal Service Board’s (LSB) ‘statutory statement of policy on ongoing competence’, published in July 2022. The LSB’s research concluded that almost nine in 10 people (87%) believe that legal services regulators should be doing more to reduce the risk of a lack of competence undermining public trust in the legal system.

As the largest regulator of legal services in England and Wales, the SRA is responsible for 90% of the “regulated market”. As such, the SRA’s new ‘progress report and action plan’ outlines the extensive work it’s already done to increase competence, notably by setting a clear standard of competence for those it regulates.

The regulator has collected evidence and discovered areas where competence could be improved, putting together a plan to “develop and broaden the ways that we identify solicitors who are not competent”.

The SRA’s strategy includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • continuing to review training records, focusing on previously identified high-risk areas (eg, immigration advice and services) and identifying where it needs to respond to any areas of risk or concern that are found in its annual assessment;
  • bringing forward its programme of thematic reviews to target areas where competence is an identified risk and distinguishing other competence-related risks that it needs to address; and
  • refreshing the guidance given to staff to further support them in identifying competence issues, including when to initiate appropriate remedial action and when this action should be enforced.

Speaking to the Law Gazette, Paul Philip, the SRA’s chief executive, said: “During 2023, we will further improve how we identify solicitors and firms who are not meeting our expectations and work with individual solicitors and firms where we have concerns about competence. We will take enforcement action where necessary to protect consumers where standards fall short.”