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SRA to launch government-style Red Tape Challenge

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is to launch a government-style ‘Red Tape Challenge’, with the chairman of its board denying that it had become a heavy-handed regulator.

The launch of the challenge – which is intended to lead to the removal of bureaucratic processes – was announced at a reception to mark the opening of the SRA’s new headquarters in Birmingham.

The regulator said the challenge would be an ongoing process, and would see the SRA undertake regular reviews of its processes and regulations to ensure they are fit for purpose.

An eight-week consultation will be launched next month.

According to legal regulation website Legal Futures, SRA board chairman Charles Plant told guests that the purpose of the initiative was to ensure that law firms and the SRA “can maximise the benefits of outcomes-focused regulation (OFR) by removing bureaucratic processes which may have carried through from the old, rules-based, approach to regulation, but which are no longer necessary”.

Plant also explained that the idea came from a discussion with a major law firm about the time it was taking the SRA approve a trainee being seconded to an in-house client legal department.

He said: “I asked the team why it was taking so long but also why were we doing this. The answer was that we have always done it. Some weeks later I had to address an audience in the City. I gave them a challenge – list 10 areas where in your opinion regulation is unnecessary or can be curtailed. I invited them to respond in a week and they did so. Two weeks later we confirmed that we would accept nine of their points.”

Rejecting the accusation of heavy-handedness, Plant said that so long as firms were able to demonstrate that they had appropriate risk and governance structures in place, the SRA would direct its attention to those who failed to do so.

Plant meanwhile described the move to The Cube in Birmingham – which brings together staff from the SRA's former premises in Leamington Spa and Redditch – as “a truly definitive step in the transformation of the SRA”, with the relocation creating “greater efficiency, reduced operating costs and enhancement in staff morale”.