SRA Surprise Visits

The Solicitors Regulation Authority, or just SRA, has announced that
there will be unexpected visits to law firms. The reason for the
planned surprise visits is for the organization to collect accurate
statistical data about the diversity of firms staff and make sure that
firms comply with the diversity requirements and promote diversity in
the legal profession.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is said to make 100 ‘randomly
selected’ visits to law firms. The intention of the visits is to
observe and assess whether or not those law firms comply with
mandatory requirements for diversity. This plan was
announced just last week in Manchester by the Law Society Firms
Diversity Forum. As stated by one attendee, the plan ‘went down like a
lead balloon’. Even though that the name of the 100 firms was not
identified, the purpose of the visits according to the SRA is to
identify ‘how equality and diversity outcomes are being delivered in
practice’. The visits are also part of a two-stage profession-wide
survey. By September the 4th, 7,131 out of 11,000 firms have completed
such questionnaires and the result showed that 186,084 people work in
those firms. The second-stage questionnaire is intended to be filled
out by each member of staff, providing information like their
ethnicity, disabilities, and age. Other information that will also be
collected includes data about sexual orientation, religious beliefs,
and gender reassignment.

The Legal Services Board in August 2011 announced that the main reason
why diversity data will be collected derives from a statuary
requirement. Additionally, it will become an obligation for all law
firms and chambers as well to present statistical information on their
company websites about the diversity profile of their employees. The
importance of publishing such information comes from the fact that
firms encourage diversity in the legal profession and they comply with
the diverse membership.

The survey’s findings by SRA will be published next year. However, for
the subsequent years it will be a requirement for law firms and
chambers to publish their own statistical data on their websites.
Mehrunnisa Lalani, SRA director of inclusion, stated that some firms
showed resistance to provide such type of information. She stressed
however that the required information must be presented and even if
some people prefer to stay confidential, there is a ‘prefer not to
say’ option. Lalani also added that the visits are intended to
‘capture accurate and complete data about diversity to ensure delivery
of the right outcomes’.

The SRA visits were supposed to start beginning of this month, however
due to the approaching SRA’s movement to new Birmingham premises,
these visits will be delayed. In order to help law firms and chamber
prepare for the surprise visits, the Law Society had published a
practice note earlier in July in order to help the companies comply
with the new requirements for collecting diversity data. According to
President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, this is said to ‘help the Law Society
better meet the needs of our diverse membership and promote greater
diversity in the profession.’

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