Visit to assist firm to improve standards, decision to authorise
Principles of regulatory decision-making, approved by the SRA Board, provide a set of standards applicable to decisions. The principles are supported by guidelines.
The reasons given by a decision-maker will normally include specific criteria applicable to the decision. SRA Policies relevant to decision-making are reflected in the criteria.
Scope of this document
This document applies to decisions to authorise a visit to a firm to assist the firm to improve standards and to monitor compliance with the rules and regulations.
The relevant provisions are:
The following criteria apply:
The decision to authorise a visit is informed by the SRA's approach to risk based regulation (Solicitors Regulation Authority - Risk-based regulation) although some visits may be undertaken on a random basis.
Non-exhaustive factors to be taken into account in deciding whether to authorise a visit include:
- There is risk of damage to the interests of clients or others;
- There is risk to public confidence;
- A visit is likely to be an effective method to establish whether compliance is being achieved.
- There is a need for SRA expertise, for example, in relation accounts, multiple complaints, forms of dishonesty or fraud, or other types of specialist legal work;
- There is a need to establish if a regulated person or firm is complying with the relevant rules and regulations.
The weight of the information may be taken into account.
In every case, the decision-maker must be satisfied, on the basis of their assessment, that it is necessary in the public interest to authorise a visit.
The example below is illustrative and does not set any type of precedent. Each matter is considered on its own facts and merits.
The SRA has published its enforcement strategy in respect of firms that are in the Assigned Risk Pool for 2010/11. All firms in the pool receive visits from the SRA and there is an immediate focus on the prompt payment of premiums.
A firm enter the Assigned Risk Pool (ARP) for 2010/11. This prompts an SRA visit. Ahead of the visit the firm receive a visit notification letter confirming the reason for the visit. The letter also states that the SRA is not restricted to looking only at issues related to the reason provided in the notification letter.
The SRA will determine the most appropriate outcome which will best protect client and public interest. It is likely that if the firm finds an insurer on the open market and the SRA are satisfied that clients are protected by the firm’s insurance obligations being met, the firm will continue to provide legal services. Alternatively, if the firm is unable to find alternative insurance, the SRA will monitor to ensure the firm has closed in an orderly manner. If necessary the SRA will make a decision to intervene into the firm.