The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) regulate solicitors and law firms across England and Wales.
This group discussion on 16 January 2020 was to consider the SRA priorities over the next few years, alongside their corporate strategy. Along with a sharp focus on high professional standards, they are looking at doing more to work with others to address complex, cross-sector problems of consumer protection.
Building on the work of the Legal Access Challenge, SRA are particularly interested in the development of legal technology that can offer accessible and affordable help for the many people who can’t currently find what they need. This is one of the key issues they are grappling with as they develop their strategy. As a Challenge applicant, interested in the issue of the access to justice, Martin Langan, CEO of Legal Workfow, was invited to take part as they felt sure he would have particular insights in this area.
Martin reports back:
“I attended the SRA round table event by invitation. It was good to see the SRA taking this initiative and the debate was lively over the full two hours. I suggested that as the SRA consultation includes reference to working with government regarding digital services, I would hope that a plea is made that government departments involved with our system of law and justice stop working in technological silos. For example, the Probate Registry Online Probate Pilot has given no indication that there will be an API. This means that law firms that invest in technology that we and others provide to automate processes and drive down costs are negated when the lawyer then has to log onto Probate online and enter data manually. Great for the Registry, not so good for lawyers and their clients.
“I liked one contributor’s comment that good technology should be regarded by the SRA as part of the high standards that it is charged to ensure and that it should therefore lobby government for better funding of software development. The government has slashed legal aid over many years and wrings its hands over access to justice, leaving it to the market to fill the gap. In my opinion, good online services should be viewed as a form of legal aid (not the sole answer but part of it) and the government should be creative about supporting those who are trying to make this happen.
“Software development is an expensive business and the most innovative ideas tend to come from small companies, who are agile and keen to develop great products and could do with some support.”
See here for more information about the event and the SRA.