Professor John (‘SRA cleared of racism despite BME concerns’) is to be commended in producing a comprehensive and learned 238-page report. Of his many recommendations, I am concerned that the present regulatory framework will stand in the way of the change to which he aspires.
There are two key components that must trouble the profession. First, a high degree of collaboration between the SRA and Law Society is given as a key starting point (see recommendation no. 3, and also 6 and 7). The constitutional separation of powers that created the SRA must mean that this a high, and I dare say unrealistic, goal.
Second, the SRA must impact-assess not only outcomes-focused regulation (recommendation 15) but also ‘excessive regulation’ (recommendations 20-23); those recommendations follow findings of disproportionate impact upon small firms.
The difficulty here is that the driving force, in our times, is consumerism. The OFR and regulatory burden put the consumer first and the practitioner second; to a great extent neither the SRA nor the profession has any ability to prevent that result.
It will be interesting to see the SRA’s response. I fear that rhetoric might obscure the opportunity for real change. I hope for, but do not foresee, lighter regulation and better investment for small firms.
Oliver Price, partner, commercial team, Wansbroughs, Wiltshire