SRA consults on budget, lawtech and equality plans
The SRA has vowed to research why ethnic minorities are over-represented in its enforcement processes
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced a consultation on its 2021 - 2022 business plan and budget, as part of its commitment to accountability and transparency.
Chief Executive, Paul Philip, said the plan’s objectives “focus on setting and maintaining high professional standards, supporting the adoption of legal technology and innovation, and understanding emerging opportunities and challenges for the users of legal services and the legal sector.”
The plan also details the SRA’s approach to the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination, evaluation of its reform programmes, and research into equality and diversity issues, including the over-representation of minorities in enforcement processes and the “attainment gap” in professional assessments.
Philip commented: “This is the second year we have consulted on our forward business plan and budget, and we have this year also included information on the proposed level of Practising Certificate fees and Compensation Fund contributions.”
The SRA confirmed it expects its proportion of the individual practising certificate fee will not exceed £151, consistent with previous years.
The Law Society is also running a consultation on its business plan and budget. Feedback from both consultations will be used to jointly set the level practising certificate fee for 2021/22.
Final proposals for the fee level, which has been £278 since 2017/18, will be submitted to the Legal Services Board later this year.
The SRA’s consultation also proposes to reduce compensation fund contributions for 2021/22 from £50 to £40 for individuals.
The plan vows to progress “independent evaluations of our reform programmes”, which include the standards and regulations and transparency rules.
This is likely to be welcomed by the profession, following recent scrutiny over seemingly harsh SRA decisions.
The plan revealed the SRA has recently undertaken “significant” exploratory work in the lawtech sector. This included research with the University of Oxford which looked at the changing use and adoption of legal technology and will “provide a foundation” for the SRA’s future work.
It proposes to forge new lawtech partnerships, to include the creation of integrated networks of business schools and innovation labs and to work closely with the government and Tech Nation, the national network for tech entrepreneurs. Around 4 per cent of the SRA’s budget will be dedicated to furthering this objective.
Another 4 per cent of budget will be allocated to “anticipating and responding to change” through a “strategically focused” research programme.
The SRA said that its “commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion is at the heart of this objective” and it has committed to the continuance of its “analysis and progression of our response to attainment gaps, and over representation of people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities within our enforcement processes.”
The plan covers the period from 1 November 2021 – 31 October 2022 and the consultation runs from 6 May until 25 June.