The Solicitors Regulation Authority hosted a reception for key stakeholders to mark its move to new headquarters at The Cube, in Birmingham city centre.
The Rt Hon The Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, joined more than 100 guests drawn from the legal profession and other key stakeholder groups to wish the SRA well for the future and to learn first-hand where it would be directing its resources in the future.
Chair of the SRA board Charles Plant described the move to The Cube – which brought together staff from the SRA’s former premises in Leamington Spa and Redditch – as “a truly definitive step in the transformation of the SRA,” with the relocation creating “greater efficiency, reduced operating costs and enhancement in staff morale”.
Mr Plant also made reference to the twin-track strategy employed by the SRA over the past three years, highlighting the successful introduction of outcomes-focused regulation (OFR) and Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) leading to more constructive engagement with the profession.
Turning to the future, Mr Plant said that “a vital part of our mission going forward will be to raise standards both in the short-term and in the long-term” – the latter being addressed by the most fundamental review of legal education and training for the past 40 years.
This was linked to how the role of the traditional lawyer will change in the future. He denied any claim the SRA was becoming a heavy-handed regulator, stating that so long as firms were able to demonstrate they had appropriate risk and governance structures in place, the SRA would direct its attention to those who failed to do so.
He announced a major initiative for the SRA – the SRA’s version of the ‘Red Tape’ challenge, a further extension of OFR enabling the SRA to focus resources where they were most needed, reducing bureaucracy and the regulatory burden placed on individuals and firms.
The SRA will be launching a consultation on its ‘red tape’ challenge in mid-December and will be seeking views from across the board.
Chief executive Antony Townsend, drew attention to the increasing proportion of the SRA’s work, “largely behind the scenes, the vast majority of it in co-operation with law firms”, to prevent risks from turning into major problems.
He said: “We are already seeing some signs of the changes – fewer interventions, some reductions in SDT referrals – which is the start of realising the benefits of more effective regulation. It is early days for drawing conclusions, and there is still much more to be done, but we are confident that the changes we have been implementing are the right ones.”