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New research highlights impact of OFR's first year

A new report on the impact of the first year of outcomes-focused regulation (OFR) on solicitors' firms has revealed that perceptions of OFR have become more positive, but the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) still has work to do in embedding the regime in the legal services sector.

The research was carried out to assess what influence OFR has had since it was introduced in October 2011. One thousand firms were asked about both the positive and negative impacts that OFR had had on the way they work in its first 12 months.

The comprehensive report is published on the Authority's website today. And one of the key findings is that many respondents said they were not clear what outcomes the SRA expected to be delivered for clients as part of the regime.

Antony Townsend, SRA Chief Executive, said: "The legal services market is now so diverse that one size no longer fits all. OFR allows flexibility to deliver the best outcomes for clients in the way that suits their business needs, but the research shows that flexibility is still not being used by the majority of firms.

"Some firms' lack of understanding of what's expected of them presents a risk of unintentional non-compliance. We will continue to engage with firms and listen to their concerns through our Relationship Management and Supervision functions in order that we can provide further clarity where it is needed.

"The report also shows that our work in explaining what we expect from COLPs and COFAs will be well received, as there are still a number who feel unclear about what they should be doing."

The report also shows:

  • Perceptions of OFR are becoming more positive as firms gain more direct experience of working with it. Half of respondents indicated that they were relatively favourable to OFR, compared to 36 per cent found in a survey prior to OFR's launch in 2011*
  • Two thirds of respondents said that complying with OFR was more time-consuming. Reasons for this included 'one-off' actions, such as time spent by firms to understand OFR and to review practices and policies to re-assure themselves that they were compliant
  • Although many firms stated that compliance with OFR 'costs too much money' and 'takes too much time', 85 per cent of respondents agreed that even if they were not required to do so by the SRA, they would continue what they currently do to comply, simply in order to run their firm well and look after their client interests
  • A fifth of firms recognised a need to improve risk management at their firm, or were currently in the process of making changes in this area. Fifty nine per cent of respondents said their firm has made changes in the past 12 months to the way they manage risk

Antony Townsend added: "The research suggests that now the first year is over, the next 12 months or so should involve much less change for firms. Our Red Tape Initiative will also help in reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens."

The research provides a benchmark against which future surveys can be measured. The survey did not involve high-impact firms that are covered by the Relationship Management programme or in-house lawyers, who will be the subject of a separate research project.

The report can be seen by following the links below

View the report online

Download the PDF (3.5MB)

* This earlier survey was based on a sample of 800 firms and carried out by CommRes in 2011 as part of an evaluation of the SRA's activities to raise awareness of OFR.

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