The Solicitors Regulation Authority is venturing into new domains by launching research into gaps in access to justice.

The organisation has commissioned the study aiming to find what impact any gaps might have on different groups of consumers.

The research runs until the autumn and will include an in-depth examination of how factors such as ethnicity and socio-economic status impact access to legal services.

Led by Professors Irene Scopelliti and Zachary Estes from Bayes Business School of City University London, the study will initially seek to identify different groups, or segments, of consumers based on their individual needs and behaviours when a legal issue arises. The research will also look for where gaps in provision currently exist and which consumers are most adversely affected, as well as testing policy interventions which could potentially address these gaps.

Anna Bradley, chair of the SRA said: 'We know that many people don’t access the legal services they need and that’s why we have commissioned this independent research.

'We want to understand which groups of people are most affected and why. This will in turn help us all to understand what needs to be done to help tackle the problems and then work out what part we might all need to play.'

The SRA has not responded to the Gazette’s query about how much the research will cost. The study appears to be a departure from the SRA’s core purpose to protect the public by ensuring that solicitors meet high standards.

But the regulator insists the research project is part of its corporate strategy commitment to deepen its understanding of consumer concerns and requirements. Last March, the SRA said its ambition was to be a ‘progressive and relevant regulator, able to anticipate and respond with agility to emerging opportunities and challenges for the legal sector in England and Wales’.