The Executive Director of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed that the legal industry regulator was forced to resist unbearable pressure from ‘well-connected individuals’ to fast track the authorisation of Alternative Business Structure (ABS) applications without completing the proper checks.
Samantha Barrass gave a compelling and revealing account of what she encountered when dealing with large sections of the legal profession and admitted that informal pressures had been placed on the SRA not to pursue the proper checks on ABS applications and to end their financial investigations on some of the high impact firms.
She also criticised the Law Society, accusing them of trying to wind the clock back to the previous millennium when they called for the government to restore regulatory powers back to themselves.
Barrass, who leaves the role in February, said: “Our submission (to the Ministry of Justice) addressed the challenges of regulation across the whole sector and market; a market no longer defined by professional titles and one in which the artificial barriers created by those titles are breaking down rapidly. The Law Society’s response did not even acknowledge such a market; focusing instead on a narrow, profession-centric, approach to regulation.”
In addition to this she accused the Law Society for allegedly trying to stop the SRA from licensing ABS’s to prevent there being competition for traditional firms within the legal sector.
Her words were not received well by the Law Society, whose chief of corporate affairs, Patricia Greer responded by claiming that they were misrepresentative of the Law Society’s position.
Talking at the same event she said: “We are not looking for a return to the 1990s, we are looking forward to small changes which would reduce duplication between bodies and provide clear separation between standard setting and enforcement.”
Ms Barrass finished her speech by paying tribute to the staff at the SRA. She leaves to take over as the chief executive of the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission in February next year.
1. Legal Futures; http://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/barrass-leave-sra