Statement

SRA statement - Handling concerns about solicitors

Today we are releasing for the first time figures on how long it takes us to deal with concerns about solicitors.

As part of our commitment to being open and transparent, the SRA Board agreed to the publication of the statistics when it met on Wednesday 29 October. The figures will be reported to the Board in public every time it meets.

The figures show the proportion of concerns assessed and concluded within a year, and the average length of time that it takes for the most serious issues to be investigated and go to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Percentage of issues concluded in 12 months 83%
Average time from receipt of information to issue of SDT proceedings 550 days

Paul Philip, Chief Executive, said: "I strongly believe that the vast majority of solicitors are doing a good job under sometimes difficult circumstances. However, it is the hallmark of any profession that it deals quickly and firmly with individuals who commit serious breaches of its rules. That is an important part of our job. It protects the public and the reputation of the profession, which in itself is in the wider public interest.

"The statistics we are publishing relate to how long we take to deal with concerns about solicitors, from the time they are received until they are referred to the SDT. We will publish and track these figures over time.

"Publishing these statistics will contribute to the development of the efficiency of our work in this area and provide useful feedback on our performance as a regulator.

"Being subject to our procedures is obviously stressful and I am keen to minimise this stress. Those who find themselves subject to our procedures have a right to have concerns lacking merit dealt with promptly. However, those who seriously flaunt our rules can expect nothing less than a robust response."

 

Note to editors

Concerns about solicitors come to us through a number of different channels, including from members of the public. We assess the information to decide what action is necessary to protect the public. Some matters may not involve misconduct and are referred to other agencies, such as the Legal Ombudsman, who can deal with concerns about performance.

The most serious issues may be referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

The figures we are reporting cover: The percentage of investigations concluded within 12 months: This KPI measures the percentage of conduct files closed within 12 months of a report being made to the SRA.

Average days from receipt of information to SDT proceedings issued: In serious cases of misconduct, it is necessary for the SRA to refer a firm or regulated person to the SDT for a decision. This KPI measures the average number of days taken for proceedings to be issued at the SDT, from the point where a report is first made to the SRA. These cases are usually complex and involve the collection of a range of materials.

Our approach to handling concerns on solicitors is outlined in more detail here:

Go to our investigations page

The figures will be reported in the public session of each of our Board meetings, and will therefore be available online here:

Go to our Board page

FAQ

Why are you producing this information now?

We have a clear commitment to transparency and openness. Reporting our performance figures is part of that commitment. It will provide a public reference point to benchmark the performance of our organisation and allow us to publicly track progress.

What do these figures actually measure?

Percentage of investigations concluded within 12 months: This KPI measures the percentage of conduct files closed within 12 months of a report being made to the SRA. Average days from receipt of information to SDT proceedings issued: In serious cases of misconduct it is necessary for the SRA to refer a firm or regulated person to the SDT for a decision. This KPI measures the average number of days taken for proceedings to be issued at the SDT from the point where a report is first made to the SRA. Both figures are based on proceedings issued within a 12-month rolling period.

Why does it take so long to deal with some cases?

While the majority of issues brought to us are dealt with quickly, some issues are very complex and require more detailed investigation. In these instances, it can take a while to obtain the information we need, and this constrains our ability to deal with investigations as quickly as we would want to. In some serious cases, we often take other regulatory action as part of the investigation, such as intervening into a firm or controlling solicitors' work by putting conditions on their practising certificates.

Why can it take time to obtain this information?

For serious and complex cases we may require information from a variety of external sources, including other agencies. For example, there may be a criminal investigation taking place and we need to work closely with the police. We also need to obtain information from the solicitor under investigation, and this can take time.

How are you going to improve on these figures?

The first step is to publish the figures and monitor our performance. As these will be publicly-available in our Board papers, everyone will be able to see how we are doing. As we get a better picture of our performance, we can identify any themes and trends and address these.

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