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Separatist SRA would boost legal services market with independence

Access to justice would improve under fully autonomous regulation, says SRA

24 March 2016

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Consumer choice and the affordability of legal services would be boosted if regulators were separated from their representative bodies, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has told the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The SRA has set out how full independence from the Law Society would benefit the public and business users of legal services.

Severing ties with Chancery Lane would enable the SRA to implement policies designed to 'promote the regulatory objectives in a more efficient and effective manner', reduce bureaucracy, and reduce unnecessary barriers in the market.

This, the SRA said, would enable innovation, promote competition, and improve consumer choice.

'Our governance would be clearer and better, with a more focused board and clearer accountabilities.

'Access to justice would improve as we could do much more, much faster to open up a competitive market so that people get better access to justice at affordable prices,' says the regulator's CMA study response.

'Doing more [and] faster to develop an open and competitive market is a win-win for the economy and our international legal sector.'

In February, ComRes conducted a survey on behalf of the SRA that showed nearly 70 per cent of those polled would be more likely to trust the profession if it was independently regulated.

Full independence could mean significant benefits to small businesses, according to the regulator. A recent survey suggested that only 13 per cent of SMEs would consider lawyers provide value for money.

The SRA's chief executive, Paul Philip, said: 'If we were a fully independent regulator, we could reduce unnecessary barriers in the market, reducing costs and enabling competition to grow to the benefit of consumers, businesses, and the public.

'Access to justice at affordable prices would improve as we could do much more, much faster to open up a competitive market. That would be a win-win for the users of legal services, the economy and our international legal sector.

He continued: 'Public polling shows that independent regulation would also boost trust in solicitors. We are clear that a healthy legal market would be good for the long term interests of the profession and law firms.'

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