020 7650 1200

Elderly Black Man

SRA annual report again shows overrepresentation of lawyers from a BAME background

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has published its latest annual report covering enforcement activities showing an overrepresentation of certain groups based on diversity characteristics.

Posted on 15 December 2020

The “Upholding Professional Standards 2018/19” review summarises the SRA’s work relating to reports to, and investigations by, the regulator in charge of the conduct of the solicitor profession in England and Wales. The report includes a snapshot about the diversity characteristics of those subject to SRA enforcement processes during 2018/19.

The review was based on information from reports and investigations about named individuals the SRA held corresponding diversity data on, for gender, age, ethnicity and disability.

The SRA has published further analysis in a separate, supporting report: “Upholding Professional Standards 2018/19 – Diversity Monitoring, Supporting Report”.

The SRA had paused its annual reporting on the diversity characteristics of those subject to its enforcement processes in 2015, with the most recent external review of the impact of its processes dating back to early 2014.

In this new review the SRA said it had “been aware of patterns showing overrepresentation of certain groups in our enforcement processes for some years, particularly for men and people from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background”, adding that, “The data from 2018/19 shows a broadly similar picture, in the concerns we received and investigations taken forward.”

Speaking at his team’s “Quest for Regulatory Equality” event last month, Gideon Habel, Partner and Head of the Regulatory & Disciplinary team at Leigh Day said it was not clear to him why the SRA had not published this sort of data for more than 6½ years and that “despite talking a good game on the steps taken since 2014, the SRA has – until now – been unwilling to hold a mirror up to itself in the form of empirical data about the impact of those changes on regulatory processes and outcomes.”

Gideon added that “data are the clearest and easiest way by which the SRA, the LSB, the legal community and wider society can properly assess what progress the changes are having. Without them, we are left in a situation where we are reliant on anecdotal evidence and individual stories rather than true regulatory accountability.

“Now that it has undertaken to provide these statistics once, it seems to me that it must do so on an annual basis from here on. This will help to build trust among the profession that not only is the SRA committed to changing its approach and processes but that it is also open to making itself as broadly accountable as possible.”

Speaking about the SRA’s new review and supporting report, Emma Walker, Associate Solicitor in Leigh Day’s Regulatory & Disciplinary team said that “Whilst it is disappointing to read the latest review indicates there continues to be disproportionate regulatory outcomes for practitioners linked to protected characteristics, it is also not a surprise.

“For the profession as a whole to understand why this is happening and to take the action it needs to, there is no substitute for collating and scrutinising comprehensive data about those subject to regulatory action by the SRA. We will be continuing to play our part in seeking to hold the SRA to account on this issue going forward. ”

Emma added that the team is looking forward to analysing the SRA’s report in detail as part of its “Quest for Regulatory Equality” series, which is scheduled to include an online event in 2021 and will renew its invitation to the regulator to engage in the series.