SRA responds to LETR research report
25 June 2013
Undertaking a radical review of the skills and knowledge required to merit qualification as a solicitor will be a key priority for the SRA in taking forward the findings of the LETR research report, published today.
Responding to publication, Charles Plant, Chair of the Board, said: "Our programme of reforms to education and training will be driven by three overarching aims: that clients and the public should have the highest confidence in the quality and integrity of legal services; that organisations providing legal services should be able to employ lawyers with the skills needed to deliver those services; and that people with the ability to practise law, whatever their background, should be able to obtain the education and training they need in a way which encourages excellence and diversity."
The SRA said the report would provide a starting point from which to consider the level of competence necessary for qualification; and how best to ensure this has been properly demonstrated. Other key priorities for the SRA will include:
- how to assure continuing competence, including Continuing Professional Development
- how to enable greater flexibility in the delivery of education and training by avoiding unnecessary regulatory restrictions
- how to improve access, equality of opportunity and diversity
- how to achieve the right balance of responsibilities between the regulators, education providers, law firms and legal professionals
SRA Charles Plant said: “The high quality of legal services protects individuals, enables effective business transactions and secures global competitive advantage for the UK. Our education and training system underpins that high quality, but the environment in which legal services are delivered has changed and is changing.
"The report indicates areas that need addressing if we are to ensure that legal education and training remains fit for purpose in the radically altering world of legal services, nationally and internationally. The SRA needs to ensure that it is setting the right standards for modern legal practice for solicitors and others delivering legal services, that it is using effective mechanisms to assure the standards which it sets, and that it is not imposing unnecessary restrictions.
“The LETR research report will be invaluable in our programme of reforms. Using that review and our own findings, we will be discussing key priorities with our stakeholders over the next few months, and will publish a policy statement later in the year. We will take account of the needs of consumers across the legal sector and the wider public interest and ensure that our work is properly co-ordinated with that of the other regulators.”
A set of six strategic principles, agreed by the SRA Board, will guide this work. The six principles are:
The overriding need to meet the regulatory objectives of the Legal Services Act: Our future programme of work will be clearly driven by our regulatory objectives, including protecting the public interest, achieving positive outcomes for consumers, supporting the constitutional principles of law and encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession.
Ensuring alignment and integration with the SRA's outcomes-focused approach to regulation: We will develop a regulatory approach to education and training that is aligned to, and supports, outcomes-focused risk-based regulation, using the SRA's Risk Framework to inform priorities.
Being prescriptive only where necessary, minimising bureaucracy and targeting regulation and resources to areas of identified risk: We will identify the key risks which should be addressed by education and training and target our regulatory requirements on these areas, providing flexibility for individuals to meet the requirements in the way that suits them best and for providers to design education and training in the way that best meets the needs of their students and trainees.
Finding an appropriate balance of regulatory requirements between individual legal services providers, individuals holding specific regulatory roles and the regulated entities within which they work: We will take into account the wider regulatory framework within which legal services are now provided, the obligations and professional responsibilities which already exist, and the regulatory responsibilities of other individuals within the regulatory framework, to avoid duplication and to ensure that our regulatory requirements and resources are targeted in the right places.
Facilitating flexibility and avoiding unnecessary barriers to access within a framework of clearly articulated and robust standards: We will ensure that our regulatory framework reflects the range of backgrounds and experience of the individuals subject to it, as well as the variety of ways in which individuals might be able to demonstrate that they meet our specified standards. We intend to undertake an early piece of work to review the skills and competences required by solicitors at the point of qualification. This piece of work will draw heavily on the findings of the LETR research and will act as the starting point from which we will consider what regulatory requirements we need to put in place to give us confidence that individuals seeking the title of solicitor are competent to receive that title.
Ensuring consistency in the standards that we set and the ways in which we require individuals and entities to demonstrate compliance with those standards: We will undertake a fundamental review of our approach to the assessment and quality assurance of our new standards of competence with the aim of developing a regulatory framework which is based on a clear articulation of the standards to be achieved, how they can be demonstrated and how we will assure that the standards being achieved are robust and consistent.
Read the LETR Report