What are we working on? Our 2019 research programme

In our first blog of 2019, we wanted to give our readers an insight into the projects we will be working on this year (and in some cases, for a few years to come!). Every year we develop our research programme by monitoring the legal market to understand what risks are emerging. We also speak to colleagues in other departments to find out what is happening on the frontline. As you can probably imagine, this generally leads to a diverse research programme, and this year is no different. From evaluating the effects of changes we are making to the market, to testing innovative ways of working with firms; we have a range of interesting and important projects. Here is an overview of some of our key projects this year.

From policy to practice

On the 6 December 2018, the first in a number of landmark reforms came into effect in the legal market. These reforms were developed in response to the Competition and Market Authority’s review of the legal services market. They will support a more competitive legal market that consumers can easily navigate and get the advice they need. The first of these reforms, requiring that certain firms publish price information, will be followed later this year with the proposals outlined in our Looking to the Future consultation.

They include:

  • requiring firms to display a digital badge on their website which shows the protections potential clients can expect,
  • removing requirements to allow solicitors to practise more flexibly and work in new, innovative types of organisation,
  • introducing a new enforcement strategy, providing greater clarity on when and how we would take action against a firm or solicitor.

For the next five years we will be evaluating our reform programme, and have outlined our plan to measure the effects of these policies. We are determined to do so robustly, and flexibly so that we can make policy amendments if there is evidence that they are not delivering the intended outcomes.

A new way of training

Another big change that we are making is the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). The SQE is set to be rolled out across England and Wales over the next few years, and will allow more people to become a solicitor, while making sure they qualify at consistently high standards. To get ready for this, we begin work this year establishing baseline measures. This will allow us to monitor the effects of the SQE on factors like access, quality and diversity as the new wave of future solicitors begin to sit their exams.

While these two high profile evaluation projects require a lot of resource from the research team, we remain as forward looking as ever. We are completing a number of projects to identify new areas, strategies and processes to help consumers and solicitors, and even some looking at improving how we work.

An inclusive legal market

We remain committed to developing an inclusive legal services market that serves the diverse needs of consumers. We are currently commissioning research into the experiences of people who need reasonable adjustments. This research will allow us to identify any barriers these people face when trying to access legal services and identify ways that their experiences could be improved. We are also hoping to test simple, inexpensive ways that firms could improve the key information they provide to consumers to ensure that it is suitable for everyone.

Gone Phishing

Our Risk Outlook, highlights that one of the key risks facing firms and consumers in the legal services market is cybercrime. Over the past two years we have been testing new and innovative ways of raising awareness across the market. We want to help firms reduce the number of their staff falling prey to these attacks and the number of consumers losing money or data. We know there is more that can be done. So, this year we will be getting out of the office and engaging directly with firms to test new processes and techniques to reduce this risk across the legal landscape.

Improving the SRA

Not all our research is focused outwards, and one area that has proved successful is trialling new ways of working to improve the effectiveness of our processes. Last year for example our Behavioural Insights Analysts worked with our Contact Centre to significantly improve the system that welcomes callers to our helpline. We are always looking for new ways to improve our processes and make sure that consumers, solicitors and firms get the advice and support they need as efficiently as possible.

Back to work

As we progress through the year, we will provide updates on all of these projects (along with a number of others that we aren’t quite ready to talk about yet). We always welcome feedback on the work that we are doing, so if you have any comments or questions on our publications, please get in touch with our Research team .

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