Law firms should not waste the technological advances they have made this year and return to old ways of working once lockdown is over.

That was the message from Solicitors Regulation Authority chair Anna Bradley, who said the profession should be applauded for its rapid response to coronavirus, with staff working from home overnight and increasing provision of online services.

Speaking at this week’s compliance conference, Bradley said: ‘People think of the legal sector as stuffy and old-fashioned and slow and actually the sector and all the attendant bodies like ourselves have responded fast and themselves to be flexible – we should all be proud of that.

anna bradley

Anna Bradley hopes changes to working practices can continue when pandemic ends

Source: SRA

‘I think we need to stay that way. I really hope people don’t wake up [at the end of the pandemic] and say ‘right we can go back to the old way now’. That would be a travesty - we have been through such a difficult time and we really need to bag the benefits we’ve achieved and frankly we need to keep the pace of change up.’

Talking on the same theme, chief executive Paul Philip predicted there would inevitably be more online services offered by firms and more people doing online self-service.

‘It needs the general public to become much more confident with accessing legal services through the internet,’ added Philip. ‘You will see reductions in the footprints of offices and you may see some consolidation of firms.’

The session also focused on the SRA’s increased involvement in recent years with investigating allegations of sexual harassment. Philip said there was a ‘burgeoning’ list of cases related to sexual misconduct. He acknowledged there was a debate about whether regulators should be investigating this behaviour or whether it should be left to the police, but he was unrepentant about the SRA’s stance.

‘I think our position is pretty clear on this,’ he said. ‘Anything that brings the profession into disrepute is the business of the SRA. It is an infringement of professional standards in our view and we will take action and have taken action. Whether we are doing enough is a moot point but we are certainly doing a lot more than some people thing we should be doing.’