BIRMINGHAM – 18 October 2023 – The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) hosted its highly anticipated Compliance Conference this morning, featuring the esteemed presence of SRA Chair Anna Bradley and Chief Executive Paul Phillip. The morning session was marked by insightful discussions on the strategic direction of the SRA over the next three years, emphasising trust and confidence in legal services as its cornerstone.

SRA Chair Anna Bradley commenced the session by underscoring the pivotal role of trust and confidence in the legal profession. “Building trust and confidence in legal services underpins everything we do at the SRA,” she stated. “It is a commitment that guides our actions and informs our objectives.”

The Chair Remarks highlighted the regulatory body’s four key objectives:

– 1. Professional Standards: Anna Bradley and Paul Phillip articulated the importance of upholding and enhancing professional standards within the legal industry. They reiterated the SRA’s dedication to ensuring that solicitors maintain the highest levels of professionalism and competence.

– 2.  Risk-Based and Proactive Regulation: The SRA leaders emphasised the adoption of data-driven approaches to regulatory decision-making. “We must use data more effectively than ever before to allocate resources appropriately,” Paul Phillip asserted. He provided an example of how data would play a crucial role in ensuring continuing competence among legal professionals.

– 3. Technology: Acknowledging the rapid advancements in technology, the SRA is committed to helping law firms stay ahead in the tech-savvy landscape. The discussions included the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into legal services, with Paul Phillip highlighting the opportunities it presents and the challenges associated with data protection and confidentiality.

– 4. Being an Authoritative Voice: In light of changing legal landscapes and challenges within the legal profession, the SRA emphasised its role as an authoritative voice. Paul Phillip drew attention to recent cases that underscored the importance of adhering to core values and principles.

Anna Bradley also alluded to the significance of data in combating money laundering risks, particularly through enhanced Anti-Money Laundering (AML) measures. “Data can be a powerful tool in identifying and preventing money laundering within the legal sector,” she explained.

During the Q&A session, audience members raised pressing issues, including client protection, intervention metamorphosis, and the recent Axiom closures, which have prompted the SRA to reconsider its compensation regime. Paul Phillip addressed these concerns, stating, “We are conducting a policy review to ensure the affordability of client protection. The evolving landscape demands that we adapt to meet the needs of the profession effectively.”

Paul Phillip, also highlighted that there would be an increase in AML fining powers going forwards. The regulatory body already increased its fining powers from £2,000 to £25,000 earlier this year. Now the regulatory body wants to have unlimited powers to deter firms from poor AML practices.

The morning session of the SRA Compliance Conference provided a comprehensive overview of the SRA’s strategic priorities and its commitment to maintaining the highest professional standards, harnessing the power of data, embracing technology, and serving as a steadfast voice in the legal industry. The conference continues with further discussions and insights in the afternoon session, promising valuable takeaways for all attendees.

About the SRA:

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales. Its mission is to protect the public by ensuring that solicitors meet high standards of professionalism and competence while promoting a fair and accessible legal services market. The SRA works to uphold the integrity of the legal profession and safeguard the interests of clients.