SRA’s trust exercise ‘far removed’ from our world, say City lawyers

Topics: City,Law firm & practice management,Regulation and compliance

Cityof londonsun
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The City of London Law Society (CLLS) has said the focus of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s consultation on breaches of professional standards does not reflect the issues facing City lawyers.

Responding to the SRA’s Question of Trust consultation, the CLLS said that scenarios so far considered to help form a proposed ‘regulatory framework’ to pinpoint the most serious breaches are ‘far removed’ from the day-to-day issues faced by lawyers in large commercial firms.

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The response continued: ‘The framework of suggested responses may appear irrelevant or insufficiently tailored to the very different working environment and set of issues and concerns that tend to arise when working for sophisticated corporate and banking clients.’

It also noted that the consultation explicitly deals with practising solicitors and those involved directly in delivering advice to clients, rather than addressing firm breaches.

The CLLS said that due to the importance for the City of the relationship between the SRA’s concerns about individuals and associated concerns about firms, it was difficult to comment sensibly on the consultation, which is only ‘one part of the full picture’.

It added: ‘Problems caused by individuals will often become problems for the firm (including reputationally).’

The CLLS also warned against the proposal to create a ‘reference framework’, echoing concerns raised by the Law Society last week.

The CLLS suggested that instead the SRA should list the facts it will take into account, such as the degree of harm suffered by the client or the level of sophistication of the client.

The society’s response said: ‘There is an inherent danger in producing a tabulated reference framework setting out the SRA’s views on likely outcomes in relation to particular concerns. This may come to be applied to rigidly […] and suggests a move towards a "box-ticking" approach to compliance and enforcement’.

This approach, the response warned, could result in perceived unfairness if the framework is overridden, and would not be able to address the myriad of different combination of factors that are at play in real-life scenarios.

The response also noted that some of the serious sanctions, such as striking off or suspensions, are within the jurisdiction of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, and said it was not clear how the SRA’s code and the SDT’s jurisdiction would interrelate, potentially creating confusion.

The SRA consultation employed interactive online voting and a nationwide tour of practitioners to establish a framework for regulatory decisions. The process, which attracted 2,350 online responses, closed on Sunday. Any action in response is likely to be announced in the summer.

Readers' comments (4)

  • This has really brightened my morning !

    The SRA tortures the small firms and as we know leaves the big boys alone, who have now brilliantly insulted the clowns in the Cube, by essentially telling them to get lost, you are of no importance or relevance to us !! They have previously stated their clients essentially regulate them and in any event, most of their commercial work is not reserved activity. (The Banks ignore regulation most of the time, so its a match made in heaven!)

    Brilliant, unfortunately however, the High Street will undoubtedly fee the backlash as the chastened have to take it out on someone !!

    Perhaps the CLLS might now consider a 'break away' both in terms of regulation and from TLS, starting off a chain reaction !

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  • It's worth reading Appendix 1 to the CLLS's response, where it gives examples of ethical problems which might affect large commercial firms. The CLLS appears not to realise that those problems are simply variations on the same problems which all lawyers might face (ie, dishonesty, conflicts, protection of client information, etc).

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  • Maybe the SRA will now apply to be a City Firm as well in order to better understand the problems and be a big player on that front too. It is ridiculous for the SRA to assume just because they are the SRA they mean the same thing to all lawyers.

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  • Is it any surprise that the SRA, an organisation which sets great store by its lay element, is out of its depth here?

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