SRA promises to act on competence failures

Firms failing to take continuing professional development seriously can expect enforcement action from the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the regulator warns today. The warning comes in a ‘progress report and action plan‘ published in response to the super-regulator’s concerns about in-career training. 

The Legal Services Board last summer published a ‘statutory statement of policy on ongoing competence’ after its consumer research found that 87% of people thought legal services regulators should do more to reduce the risk of a lack of competence undermining public trust in the legal system.

Responding today, the SRA said it had already carried out extensive work in this area, such as setting the standards of competence that those it regulates should meet. It has also collected evidence and identified areas where competence might need to be improved, and responding in a targeted way through its proactive regulatory work.

The SRA’s plan includes:

  • Taking forward its programme of thematic reviews to both target areas where competence is an identified risk and identify other competence-related risks which it needs to address.
  • Continuing to review training records, focusing on high-risk areas that it has already identified (for example, immigration advice and services) and looking at where it needs to respond to any areas of risk or concern that its annual assessment identifies.
  • Responding to individual cases of incompetence on a case-by-case basis and taking remedial and enforcement action, such as to require training or enhanced supervision, where it is appropriate to do so.
  • Enhancing its approach to following up on competence reports which do not meet its threshold for enforcement.
  • Piloting a proactive, risk-based approach to identifying and following up with firms, where its data and information indicates that they might not be meeting the SRA’s standards for competence.

Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said: ‘During 2023, we will further improve how we identify solicitors and firms who are not meeting our expectations and work with individual solicitors and firms where we have concerns about competence. We will take enforcement action where necessary to protect consumers where standards fall short.’


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