The Law Society has questioned the need for additional regulation in its response to a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) consultation on proposed changes to its rules and Codes of Conduct aimed at clarifying the SRA’s approach to issues around appropriate treatment of work colleagues by the individuals and firms it regulates.
The SRA also consulted on proposed changes in relation to a solicitor's health and fitness to practise.
The regulator said that the purpose of the proposed changes was to:
- “make it clear that those we regulate must treat colleagues with respect and dignity. And that if they fail to do so, we will take action where necessary to protect the interests of clients and the public
- support our ability to take appropriate and proportionate action where necessary to deal with concerns over a solicitor's health affecting their fitness to practise.”
The consultation closed on 27 May 2022. Any rule changes the SRA decides on following this consultation will be subject to approval by the Legal Services Board.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We’re supportive of the principles of treating people fairly, but we oppose the need to introduce additional regulation.”
Chancery Lane said that whilst it recognised the importance of ensuring fair and equitable workplace culture, the consultation paper lacked supporting evidence, particularly with regard to the harm the SRA’s proposals were intended to address.
It warned that the proposals ran the risk of overstepping the SRA’s regulatory duties under the Legal Services Act 2007, and would significantly widen the responsibilities placed on solicitors “without any clarity as to:
- why they’re necessary
- how these would be managed in terms of enforceability, or
- how far reaching the impact may be.”
“We therefore encourage the SRA to provide more detailed proposals for us to review,” the Law Society said.
Chancery Lane argued that a more appropriate and proportionate approach at this stage would be to encourage good practice and compliance with the existing SRA Principles and regulations, whilst engaging with the profession to identify specific gaps and the most suitable ways to address these.