The Gazette has long pointed out that the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s insistence that lawyers meet high standards of transparency is not necessarily met by its own actions.
The public and press continue to be excluded from SRA board meetings, on the questionable assertion that solicitors would be no better informed about the decision-making process from seeing it in action.
Another aspect of the SRA’s methods is also shrouded in mystery – the process by which decisions are made about whether to prosecute solicitors for misconduct, and when a reprimand or low-level fine will suffice rather than bothering the tribunal with such matters.
The SRA’s website explains that it employs one chief adjudicator, four full-time permanent adjudicators and 13 external panel adjudicators – six lay and seven legally qualified.
Obiter decided to ask through a freedom of information request what credentials these individuals possessed and how long they had been qualified. After all, these people are making career-defining decisions about solicitors and one would hope they bring a little experience to such a task.
Alas, the SRA could not provide the answers. Given the low number of adjudicators, the regulator said, giving details about their qualifications would lead to them being identifiable from the information requested (Obiter might suggest in passing that we should know their identities, but that point would presumably fall on deaf ears).
More to the point, the SRA replied, it does not hold an exhaustive list of employees’ qualifications in a way that could be made readily available. Even if they were minded to tell us, they don’t have the info to hand.
All of which might prompt law firm compliance officers to give a wry smile. After all, according to the SRA’s own transparency rules, authorised firms ‘are required to provide on their website the experience and qualifications of anyone carrying out the work, and of their supervisors’.
Do as I say, etc…