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SRA takes temperature of the profession

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has published a report examining the attitude of the legal profession towards compliance with the SRA's regulatory requirements.

The research, "Attitudes to regulation and compliance in legal services", was carried out by the SRA to assess firms' approach to regulatory compliance. The report was commissioned to establish a "baseline" set of statistics on the profession's attitudes which the SRA will use to help focus its ongoing and future regulatory activities.

The study used social and behavioural scientific approaches to look at factors that influence behaviour. The research, carried out last year, involved 200 firms in an assessment of their compliance with key regulatory outcomes in the SRA's new Code and participation in a questionnaire designed to elicit key drivers of compliance and non-compliance. Paul Domjan of John Howell & Co, a consultancy firm specialising in regulation policy development, and Daniel Read, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, assisted the SRA with the research.

Samantha Barrass, SRA Executive Director, said: "This report is a 'first' for us. Its purpose is to help us to understand the likely causes of compliance and non-compliance so we can direct our regulatory resources accordingly.

"For example, the research tells us that an important contributor to 'unthinking' non-compliance is a lack of knowledge of our regulatory requirements. This tells us that the effort we have put in to supporting firms' understanding of our new regime has been a good use of our time and we should maintain this effort.

"The research also highlights two important perceptions. The first is that the SRA is most likely to discover a breach at a firm through a visit, and the second is that firms feel they are not likely to be 'caught out' either by consumers or peers. This tells us that visits to firms to examine specific areas of concern is a good use of the SRA's time, particularly if we can build a good understanding by firms that non-compliance cannot be hidden."

Among other attitudes revealed by the research were that most firms believed they understood the SRA's regulatory requirements; they recognise that it's beneficial to comply; and that they accept the need for regulation because they wish to be part of a profession that has high standards.

The document was presented to the SRA's Board meeting on Wednesday, 29 February. A follow-up survey will be carried out in 2013 to test for changes as a result of the SRA's new regulatory approach.


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