Firms believe outcomes-focused regulation (OFR) ‘costs too much money and takes too much time’ – but they are warming to it, the Solicitors Regulation Authority reports today.

A survey of 1,000 firms on the impact of the first year of OFR shows that half of respondents are ‘relatively favourable’ to the process, compared with 36% prior to its introduction in 2011. However a year in to the new regime, many firms say they are not clear what outcomes the SRA expects to be delivered for clients.

Two thirds of respondents said that complying with OFR was more time-consuming than their previous compliance routine, partly due to one-off actions such as getting to grips with the new regime and reviewing practices and policies to ensure compliance.

Although many firms state that compliance with OFR ‘costs too much money’ and ‘takes too much time’, 85% agreed that even if they were not required to do so by the SRA, they would continue the new practices in order to run their firm well and look after their clients’ interests.

A fifth of firms say they need to improve risk management or are currently in the process of making changes, and 59% say they have made changes in the past 12 months to the way they manage risk.

Overall, the SRA says that the findings indicate that perceptions of OFR are becoming more positive as firms gain more direct experience of working with it.

SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said that some firms’ lack of understanding of what is expected of them presents a risk of ‘unintentional non-compliance’. He said that the legal services market is now so diverse that one size no longer fits all and that OFR allows flexibility to deliver the best outcomes for clients.

‘The research suggests that now the first year is over, the next 12 months or so should involve much less change for firms,’ he added.