- Solicitors of England and Wales
- Law Firms of England and Wales
- Non-Lawyers who are managers and employees of the firms the SRA regulates
- Other types of lawyers such as RFLs (Registered Foreign Lawyers) and RELs (Registered European Lawyers)
The other regulatory bodies are respectively responsible for different types of legal professionals, for example, Barristers, Legal Executives, Licensed Conveyancers, Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys, Cost Lawyers, and Notaries. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority regulates all types of legal work a firm does, including probate services and conveyancing.
What does the Solicitors Regulation Authority Do?
The SRA sets Principles and a Code of Conduct that the solicitors regulated by them must adhere to in order to provide legal services in England and Wales. Making use of a risk-based, outcome-focused approach to regulation they ensure that individuals and law firms operate independently and with integrity in the best interests of clients and the broader public interest. Their main task is to regulate the professional conduct of solicitors as well as other authorized individuals and those working in the public and private sectors they regulate.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority was formed by the Legal Services Act of 2007 to act as an independent regulator of solicitors. The SRA is a statutory body and, while it is a formal arm of the Law Society, it operates independently of the Law Society since the government adopted the recommendation by Sir David Clementi that professional bodies should not hold both representative and regulatory roles but should be separate. The Law Society still remains the representative body for solicitors.
What is the SRA’s Function?
The SRA carries out its functions by creating and upholding the Solicitor’s Handbook that includes the Code of Conduct. The handbook contains ethical principles to guide solicitors in their profession including:
- Authorizing those that choose to work in the legal profession
- Annual renewal of the Practicing Certificates that represent the license to practice
- Authorising the firms within which reserved legal activities are carried out
- Supervising to ensure that individuals adhere to professional standards of conduct
- Taking enforcement action against those that breach the Code of Conduct in order to create an effective deterrent and to discourage further wrongdoing in the future.
They also ensure that the solicitors they regulate are insured and qualified to provide legal services by:
- Setting qualification standards for England and Wales
- Mentoring students training to become solicitors
- Monitoring performance of the training organizations that provide qualifications
- Administering the Roll of Solicitors
- Assessing the characters and suitability to the profession of those they regulate
- Ensuring that solicitors from overseas like RFLs and RELs meet the standards of training, English language requirements, and suitability to the profession before allowing them to practice in England or Wales.
The SRA has a range of legal sanctions available to them that enable them to undertake a variety of actions depending on the severity of the breach and the risk posed to the legal profession and the public. More severe cases can be prosecuted at a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The SRA can also monitor the quality of training of those entering the legal profession and increase the standard for those practicing within it. Examples of enforcement action include:
- Issuing a warning regarding future conduct
- Control how a firm or an individual practices
- Imposing a disciplinary sanction such as a fine
- Refer a firm or an individual’s conduct to a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal
- Refuse to renew or revoke recognition of a firm
- Close a firm by “intervention” with immediate effect
The SRA deals mainly with misconduct, dishonesty, and cases of fraud but does not take complaints about poor service provided by solicitors. Complaints are handled by the Legal Ombudsman, an organization that handles problems from clients.
Regulating in the Public Interest
The SRA regulates firms in the public interest by setting minimum professional standards so that clients as consumers can get the services they expect. When these standards are not adhered to, sanctions are taken in order to act as a deterrent for future wrongdoing.
The SRA regulates more than 180,000 solicitors in England and Wales and their main purpose is to protect the public by ensuring that high standards are adhered to and to act when risks are identified.