Osmond and Osmond are dedicated to serving clients to the highest professional standards. The framework for standards across the legal profession is set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and it gives clients an insight of what they can expect from their solicitors.
The SRA is responsible for dealing with all regulatory and disciplinary matters relating to solicitors in England and Wales, including the monitoring and enforcing of professional standards. Implemented on the 6th October 2011, the SRA’s ‘outcomes-focused regulation’ (OFR) replaced the old rules-based approach, and now focuses on the ‘high level principles and outcomes that should drive the provision of services for clients.’ The new approach is outlined in the SRA handbook.
The Ten SRA Principles
At the heart of the OFR are the ten SRA Principles, which are similar to the core duties listed in rule 1 of the old code of conduct. These principles underpin all regulatory requirements, and should be considered in all aspects of a solicitor’s duties. They require that a solicitor must:
1. Uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice
2. Act with integrity
3. Not allow independence to be compromised
4. Act in the best interests of each client
5. Provide a proper standard of service to clients
6. Behave in a way that maintains the trust of the public and in the provision of legal services
7. Comply with legal and regulatory obligations and deal with regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner
8. Run business or carry out roles in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles
9. Run a business or carry out a role in a business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity
10. Protect client money and assets
The Code of Conduct
Alongside the 10 principles, the SRA handbook sets outs a new code of conduct which is composed of mandatory outcomes and non-mandatory indicative behaviours, as opposed to strict rules. The mandatory outcomes describe what the solicitor is expected to achieve by adhering to the principles, whilst the non-mandatory indicative behaviours are examples of the type of behaviour which may help establish whether the firm is in compliance.
The code is split into sections, dealing with the relationships between solicitors and their clients, their business, their regulator and then everyone else.
Surveys performed in February 2013 by the SRA showed an increase in the overall favourability of firms towards OFR, increasing from 36% in 2011 to 50% in 2012, whilst those less favourable towards OFR decreased from 21% to 16% over the same period. It was also shown that 40% of firms believed the only changes to the regulations were in nominating a COLP (compliance officer for a legal practice) and a COFA (compliance officer for finance and administration). While 34% of firms believed that OFR ‘costs too much money’, 85% agreed that if the OFR was not a requirement, firms would continue act in compliance in order to manage the firm well and protect their clients’ interests.
Osmond and Osmond believe in taking a transparent and flexible approach with clients and although the focus of regulation has changed, the effect on our clients has been minimal. Our firm still seeks to uphold the same values as the rule-based regulations, but now we have the freedom to follow principles instead of prescriptive rules which means we can provide an even better service. This flexibility enables us to comply with regulations more effectively while putting your best interests first.