The Solicitors Regulation Authority has agreed to share its data on solicitors with comparison websites set up by third parties by the end of this year.
The regulator has responded to a call from the Legal Services Consumer Panel to provide more information for online registers of practitioners.
In a letter to the panel, SRA executive director Crispin Passmore said a ‘data extract’ – likely to include the size of the firm and any disciplinary issues in the past – will be in place by Christmas.
This will be the precursor for the development of an online register of solicitor firms that can feed directly to comparison sites – expected by the end of 2015.
The 'open' CSV format allows for comparison sites and others to more easily transfer information on more than 3,000 decisions made by the ombudsman.
As well as the SRA, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers and the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg) have also agreed to share their data in a reusable form.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel has published the names of eight comparison sites which have met its standards through a self-assessment, although it stresses this is not an endorsement.
The publication of data has been a key aim for the panel since its inception following the Legal Services Act, with regulators summoned to a meeting in March this year to explain how they would improve openness.
In a blog published today, panel chair Elisabeth Davies (pictured) said real progress is now being made in bringing data about lawyers into the public domain.
The panel has previously suggested other information such as price and consumer feedback should be included in legal comparison websites.
‘Not every regulator is fully on board yet, but this progress is really positive and there’s scope to build on it in the future, with talk of publishing all the information in one place, for example on the Legal Choices website,’ Davies said.
‘The quest for open data has been at the heart of the panel’s policies since 2011. Transparency is absolutely essential for consumers if they’re going to be able to make informed choices, protect themselves from harm and have confidence in the regulators.’