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The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is inviting views from key stakeholders on how it should regulate in the future to ensure clients obtain good quality legal services from solicitors and the firms in which they practise.
In the Agenda for quality discussion paper, the SRA puts forward a number of proposals prompted by changes brought about by the Legal Services Act. The SRA is looking at any possible changes which may be necessary including the appropriate balance between the responsibilities of legal professionals and the regulator.
A consumer survey published by the SRA in 2008 revealed that some clients are unclear about what to expect from solicitors and that they perceive the process to be frustrating due to lack of communication and delays.
In addition to collecting advice from stakeholders during the coming year, the SRA intends to work with consumer groups, the profession and other key stakeholders with the aim of producing a consultation paper containing detailed proposals early in 2010.
Dr Jonathan Spencer, the SRA's chair of Education and Training, said: "Our focus until relatively recently has been on the role and conduct of individual solicitors, rather than on the delivery of legal services. We already have some tools for promoting quality using pre-entry educational requirements, the Solicitors' Code of Conduct, the Legal Complaints Service and accreditation schemes, but no coherent framework of quality standards tailored to the needs of different consumer groups, and the risks with different types of work and practice. Much also relies on the professional approach of solicitors themselves.
"The changes brought about by the Legal Services Act, and the extra focus on consumers, together with our newly acquired powers to regulate firms, have given us an opportunity to re-examine the ways in which to regulate the quality of legal services.
"We are therefore keen to engage with the profession, users of legal services and other stakeholders, including the new LSB Consumer Panel, about the best ways of ensuring a high and where necessary, improved standard of quality.
"We would welcome comments on the issues raised in the discussion paper so that we can press forward with more specific proposals for an appropriate regulatory framework."
The deadline for submitting comments is 2 September 2009. For more information and to download the discussion paper, visit the SRA website.