As part of its wider work on providing clear reporting on the operational aspects of its work, the Solicitors Regulation Authority of England and Wales (SRA) have published their second annual report on their enforcement activities. The ‘Upholding Professional Standards’ report summarises the handling of over 9,500 reports and 3,600 investigations in the 2018/19 period. Particularly looking at issues such as sexual harassment, the use of non-disclosure agreements, and money laundering.
The report includes a review of the diversity characteristics of solicitors involved in the enforcement processes over the course of the year. This includes those reported to, investigated by, or who have had action taken against them by either the SRA or the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Key findings of the review include:
- 26% of concerns raised with the SRA related to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) solicitors, while 18% of the overall solicitor population is BAME. This figure rose to 32% in cases that were investigated.
- 67% of concerns raised with the SRA related to men, whereas 49% of the overall solicitor population is male. This figure rose to 73% in cases that were investigated.
- Cases concluded by the SRA or at the SDT for ethnicity were in line with the representation seen at the investigation stage, with a further uplift to 85% for findings against men at the tribunal.
The data available for disability was very limited, making meaningful analysis difficult.
Anna Bradley, Chair of the SRA said: “We are committed to transparently reporting the details of our operational work and I am pleased that this year we have been able to include the profile of people in our enforcement processes. This again shows an over-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic solicitors, and men, in both the concerns raised with us and then investigated, when compared to the diversity of the profession as a whole. We must look at what is happening here. We have made significant changes to our enforcement processes and reformed our regulation over the last few years, but the picture remains the same and it is unclear why that is the case. Since 2007 we have held three independent reviews into our processes to make sure they are fair and free from bias and none found any evidence of issues with our processes. Notwithstanding this, we will look again at our decision making. Importantly we think it is now time to also examine why we are seeing so many more concerns about BAME solicitors reported to us than should be the case in the light of the profile of the profession. It is a picture seen across many regulators; some of the potential factors may be wider societal issues and others may be particular to the legal sector. So we will commission independent research in this complex area, reaching out to the profession, key groups and expert voices as we shape this work.”