Plans for an easily searchable public register of solicitors’ disciplinary records have moved a step closer to reality after the Solicitors Regulation Authority reiterated its desire to ‘provide more information to the public’.
SRA chief executive Paul Philip confirmed that the regulator was considering publishing data about complaints, including any sanctions against a firm.
Information on firms and individual solicitors would be published on the register as well as practising conditions, and regulatory or disciplinary decisions, indexed by name. Sanctions relating to individual solicitors, including disciplinary tribunal decisions, would also appear, the SRA said.
An SRA spokesperson told the Gazette: ‘We actually already publish details of enforcement action and disciplinary rulings on our website. However, we know that we could improve how easy it is to access and find this – and other relevant – information. So our proposals are to publish a digital register that brings basic information on the firms and individuals we regulate together in one place.’
The information about sanctions will remain on the database for three years unless there is a specific timeframe attached to a decision. The regulator said it would own and update the database.
The SRA also stepped up its rhetoric on requiring firms to publish information on prices, as recommended by the Competition and Markets Authority. The SRA said it had previously been minded to allow the market to decide what data should be published. It changed its position earlier this year and said it was persuaded of the need for transparency on prices.
During a panel session at last week’s compliance officers conference, representatives from the CMA, SRA and chief legal ombudsman said price comparison would be a vital tool for consumers. Paul Kellaway, CMA assistant director, said that if consumers were buying any other professional service they would want to know the cost before purchasing. An SRA consultation on price comparison is open until 20 December.
A survey published last week by the Legal Services Consumer Panel found just 6% of legal clients found the price of their transaction on the provider’s website, and another 4% found it through an advertisement or on a price comparison website. The most common areas of law where people had consulted a comparison site were employment and housing.