About the UK Solicitors Regulation Authority

Simply known as the SRA, the U.K. Solicitors Authority is a regulatory body of solicitors in Wales and England.

Headquartered in Birmingham, the SRA is saddled with the responsibility of regulating the conduct of over 125,000 solicitors and other professional individuals at public and private sector organizations in over 11,000 firms. It has Paul Philip as the Chief Executive.

The SRA was established in 2007 and serves as an independent regulatory body for solicitors in the region of England and Wales. It has an office located in London.

It formally existed as an arm of the UK’s Law Society, which is still the body representing solicitors. However, the SRA was created statutorily and now operates independently.

The body came into existence after former executive of the Bank of England and the executive chairman of BBC, Sir David Clementi, suggested that bodies of professionals holding representative and regulatory responsibilities should have their roles separated. The UK government adopted his idea and the SRA was formed.

Who are solicitors?

Solicitors are lawyers who provide expert legal advice to as well as supports to clients. Once they become qualified for the role, they can specialize in legal areas such as litigation, family, tax or property.

They conduct specific legal activities such as:

  • Advocacy
  • Probate
  • Litigation
  • Notary
  • Conveyancing
  • Oath administration

Differences between solicitors and barristers

In England and Wales, there are two types of lawyers- solicitors and barristers. It is a distinction of a historical nature that has its supporters and its detractors, so that, from time to time, voices emerge calling that it should disappear. So far, the critics have not managed to merge these two professions. However, in recent years, some changes have been introduced that have greatly reduced the differences that existed between them. The loss of the monopolies of the solicitors (for example, in the matter of transfer of property) and of the barristers (in the right of hearing before higher courts) has blurred the dividing line between these two types of lawyers.

What are the functions of the barrister?

The barristers defend the interests of their clients in court proceedings before the courts. They are also responsible for drafting the main procedural documents (the so-called statements of case: the complaint, the answer, etc.). Until the entry into force of the Courts and Legal Services 1990, they were the only ones that could exercise before the superior courts or senior courts. At present, the solicitors can also access these functions, although they must have a certificate that gives them additional rights of hearing (Higher Rights of Audience) granted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Can you hire a barrister directly?

Before the nineties of the last century, the barristers could only be hired by “professional clients”. However, during the 1990s, the Bar Council – the governing body of the barristers at that time – implemented a pilot program called BarDIRECT to allow certain professionals and organizations (unions, police forces, etc.) to contract barristers directly. In this way, a process was initiated to liberalize access to this type of lawyers that culminated in 2004. On that date, the Bar Council adopted a series of rules known as the “Public Access scheme” that allow the public to contract the barristers without intermediaries.

How are the barristers organized?

The representative body of the barristers is the Bar Council (The General Council of the Bar of England and Wales), which formerly was also its regulatory authority. In 2006, these two functions were separated to avoid conflicts of interest between them. After all, it is difficult to protect the interests of the general public and, at the same time, the corporate interests of lawyers. For this reason, the body responsible for regulating the profession is now the Bar Standards Board (BSB), which is integrated into the Bar Council, but acts independently.

The barristers are obliged to comply with the BSB code of conduct and to pay for the practicing certificate (PC) that it issues, if they wish to exercise.

What are the functions of the SRA?

The SRA is responsible for regulating thousands of authorized professionals, solicitors and their firms in their regions of legal jurisdiction – England and in Wales. The North Ireland and Scotland are separate regions of jurisdiction as these countries also have their regulatory bodies. Apart from the SRA, there are many other bodies which regulate legal services in England and in Wales. The Bar Standard Board (BSB) regulates barristers. Some of the other regulatory bodies are: Notaries, CILEx, Council of Licensed Conveyancers and many others.

The SRA ensures that all legal services achieve regulatory outcomes such as:

  • Promoting and protecting the interest of the public.
  • Promoting and protecting the best interest of the clients.
    Promoting healthy competition for legal services.
  • Encouraging diverse, effective, strong and independent legal profession.
  • Supporting the constitutional rights of the people.
  • Increasing citizens’ understanding of their duties and legal rights.
  • Observing the courts’ best interests.
  • Promoting the right work standards.
    Promotin adherence to principles of integrity and independence.
  • Maintaining clients’ confidentiality

The responsibilities of the SRA

  • Maintaining the code of ethics for professionals and the Solicitors’ Handbook.
  • Authorizing and giving licenses to solicitors and their firms.
  • Supervising professionals and their firms.
  • Enforcing actions against the violators of the regulatory body’s codes through the
    solicitors’ tribunal.

As a matter of fact, the supervisory function of the SRA handled 6,289 cases in 2012. It also closed down firms in a total of 37 interventions because they posed risks to their clients. Acting on referrals to the tribunal, a total of 77 strikes-off, 56 suspensions, and 94 fines were made during this period, amongst other sanctions.