If the local plod happened to ask about your attitude to law-breaking, you would probably not confess to a list of crimes before knocking the bobby’s helmet off and doing a runner.
So the Solicitors Regulation Authority was not too surprised by the results of its survey of solicitors’ attitudes to compliance and regulation. As we report this week, the survey of 200 firms did highlight interesting issues around a fear of inspections and aversion to whistleblowing. But what did the regulator expect to find out by asking firms if they comply with regulations?
It would take a brave respondent to say no and indeed 85% of firms stated they had an above-average knowledge of the rules.
Only 3% of responding firms confessed they saw no real point to compliance other than keeping the SRA happy, while 85% thought current sanctions were just right.
Even the SRA admitted the reliability of the findings was ‘questionable’ owing to ‘regulator bias’. The report says: ‘As a regulator, we are aware that those we regulate may "tell us what we want to hear" during interview, or not feel comfortable discussing their own possible non-compliance or poor performance.
‘We took a number of steps to control this, including assuring firms they had been randomly selected and using a range of questions about both the individual firm and firms in general. In addition, allowing firms to provide an explanation around the scores they gave helped to ensure that ratings were not given out of context, and we assured firms that their answers were not being used to assess the firm but to explore motivators for compliance.’
For future surveys, however, the SRA says it is exploring other ways of encouraging respondents to come clean, ‘including using an independent third party to collect the data and/or submission of information online’.