Staying up to date and competent through their careers is an important part of providing high quality legal services to those who need them. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has published the actions it will be taking to make sure that solicitors comply with their responsibilities.
Its plan is in response to the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) statement of policy on ongoing competence and sets out the extensive work it has already undertaken in this area, such as setting the standards of competence that those it regulates should meet at authorisation and beyond in its Statement of Solicitor Competence. It has also collected evidence and identified areas where competence might need to be improved, and responding in a targeted way through its proactive regulatory work.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said:
“We expect the profession to deliver a high standard of service to those who need their help. That means we must make sure that solicitors and the employees of firms we regulate have up-to-date skills, knowledge and behaviours.
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.”
As the SRA enhances and broadens its approach, it will measure the impact of its Statement of Solicitor Competence through its 10-year evaluation programme for the SQE and publish an annual determination of competence identifying the most significant risks around competence. This will inform its regulatory approach.
The SRA’s plan includes:
- Taking forward its programme of thematic reviews to both target areas where competence is an identified risk and identify other competence-related risks which it needs to address.
- Continuing to review training records, focusing on high-risk areas that it has already identified (for example, immigration advice and services) and looking at where it needs to respond to any areas of risk or concern that its annual assessment identifies.
- Responding to individual cases of incompetence on a case-by-case basis and taking remedial and enforcement action, such as to require training or enhanced supervision, where it is appropriate to do so.
- Enhancing its approach to following up on competence reports which do not meet its threshold for enforcement.
- Piloting a proactive, risk-based approach to identifying and following up with firms, where its data and information indicates that they might not be meeting the SRA’s standards for competence.
A range of resources are available to help the profession check on their skills and knowledge so that these can be kept up-to-date.