The Solicitors Regulation Authority takes an average of 550 days - 18 months - to issue proceedings in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for the most serious cases of misconduct, the regulator revealed today.
Figures published by the SRA show for the first time how long it takes to deal with complaints and concerns about solicitors from first receipt of information. Overall, 82% of issues are assessed and concluded within 12 months of first receipt of information, the SRA said.
The figures are the first appearance of statistics which will be published monthly following a decision by the SRA board last month.
Chief executive Paul Philip (pictured) said publication of the figures was necessary for the organisation to improve how efficiently it deals with non-compliance. ‘It is the hallmark of any profession that it deals quickly and firmly with individuals who commit serious breaches of its rules,’ he said.
Philip added that improving the speed of resolving issues was crucial to both solicitors and members of the public.
This is the first time figures of this nature have been put together and the expectation is that targets can be set once there is a better understanding of how the disciplinary process works.
The number of new disciplinary matters involving solicitors has increased by 55% this year, SRA papers revealed last month. A report by the regulator’s legal and enforcement sector showed 90 new proceedings opened in the first eight months of 2014, compared with 58 in the same period in 2013.
The SRA explained that, while the majority of issues are dealt with quickly, some issues are very complex and require more detailed investigation. In these instances, it can take a while to obtain the information needed, and this constrains its ability to deal with investigations as quickly as it would like.
In some serious cases, it can act before any SDT proceedings by intervening into a firm or controlling solicitors’ work by putting conditions on their practising certificates.
The Law Society welcomed what it called ‘a move to greater transparency and openness’. A spokesperson said: ‘We recognise the complexities of some of the complaints they deal with. We also appreciate that the SRA intends to improve on these figures and pick up the pace to resolve complaints faster, which is good news for our members.’