Empowering consumers: The SRA's approach
9 October 2013
September 2013 to August 2015
What it's all about
We are the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
We regulate legal services to help consumers get the right outcomes.
This could be a solicitor, an organisation they work for, or any other type of lawyer that we regulate. Our focus is on the experiences, choices and outcomes that members of the public, or businesses, have when they come into contact with anyone we regulate.
We understand that for most people legal problems fortunately don't come along too often. Of course this can mean that if you do have a legal issue in your life it can be confusing to know what your rights are and what choices are open to you, let alone what you're entitled to expect if you involve a lawyer.
We want to help consumers become more empowered and confident in their relationships with lawyers. We think this should mean that people can become more aware of their rights and options, and have better access to tools they may require to make well-informed choices about their legal services.
The SRA's strategy
Our Strategy sets down the direction we are heading in to achieve our objectives between 2013 and 2015. One of our key objectives is as follows:
- "Deliver risk-based outcomes-focused regulation so as to achieve positive outcomes for consumers in the public interest and do so in a way that is justifiable to all our stakeholders." Our approach to empowering consumers sets out how we will aim to help people play a more active role in this process. Our aim is to support people to take greater charge and control of the choices and decisions they make about legal services.
Tackling the biggest risks
Our Regulatory Risk Index sets out our understanding of the main risks to the regulatory objectives that we work towards. Our Risk Outlook then identifies the emerging risks that we are working to mitigate at any one point in time.
Some of these are risks that consumers may directly face whenever they use legal services. Others are risks generated by different law firms and the legal services market itself.
The work and the actions that we set down in this document aim to help us understand more about the risks that consumers face. This will help us to make sure that our style of regulation is working in the right way to manage those risks.
We are also aiming through the work we describe here to really lend consumers a hand to begin playing a bigger part in managing some of those risks themselves.
In particular we would like consumers to find it easier to get the support they need to make well-informed choices and decisions about their legal services, and to be more aware and alert to the possible risks they may face in this process.
How we will do this
We will concentrate on three areas:
- education - consumers need easy access to resources they might want to help them build up their knowledge and make good choices about lawyers and law firms,
- engagement - consumers and organisations representing them need to have a range of ways to tell us what they think and to share their experiences, and
- empowerment - consumers should have confidence and be well-informed about their rights and the options open to them if they need to work with a lawyer.
We will meet high standards, which are:
- we set clear, achievable goals showing the benefits of our work and how we measure success,
- we are inclusive, fair and open so that we can make a difference to consumers with different needs and in different parts of society, and
- we improve consumer confidence as a result meaning that our work in the three areas is well-designed from the start to benefit consumers using law firms and lawyers.
We will measure success by:
- asking consumers and organisations that represent them if they see improvements and benefits coming out of our work
- tracking our milestones, publishing our work plan, and reporting our progress, and
- involving consumers from the start of new projects we carry out and encouraging them to take part in events we run.
Our action plan September 2013 to August 2015
||How we will achieve the outcome
|A new consumer-facing website brand managed by legal regulators is available, providing consumers access to impartial no-nonsense facts about lawyers and legal services, and allowing them to have their say about legal services in a range of different ways
- work with the other legal regulators to develop, launch and manage a website called 'Legal Choices' (by October 2013)
- 'Legal Choices' is uploaded with fresh content each month, including consumer surveys, polls and quizzes (ongoing throughout 2014 and 2015)
- Legal Choices' is promoted actively with consumers, organisations that represent them, and advice bodies (from October 2013 onwards)
|Not-for-profit organisations that represent consumers have a range of channels available to talk to the SRA and play a direct role in supporting vulnerable consumers to get good outcomes from legal services
- the SRA's Forum on Disability grows with quarterly meetings (ongoing) and produces an information pack aimed at charities (by December 2013)
- the SRA works alongside Citizens Advice at a national and regional level to take forward joint working projects (ongoing through 2014 and 2015)
- the SRA establishes a Forum on Ethnicity bringing together organisations that represent the interests of ethnic minority groups (by December 2013)
|The SRA provides clear and accessible information and advice for consumers about lawyers, scams, and risks in the legal services market
- the 'consumers' area of the SRA's website is kept fresh with new content and advice for people about using lawyers, including scam and fraud alerts (ongoing through 2014 and 2015)
- the SRA continues to inform consumers about key pieces of information via social media including Twitter (ongoing through 2014 and 2015)
|The SRA uses research to offer fresh insights into consumer experiences and needs, and develops its policies based on evidence and feedback from consumers
- the SRA will complete the research process looking at the consumer experience of interventions and publish the results of this work (during 2014)
- the SRA will use research and engagement work to make sure consumers have a clear voice in our policy work-streams - including reviewing financial protections arrangements, and actions taken forward from the Legal Education and Training Review (during 2014 and 2015)
Please use www.sra.org.uk/consumeraffairs to link to this page.