SRA Thematic Review
In February 2022, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published a Thematic Review, which included responses from over 200 solicitors. The SRA’s hypothesis was that “if employees are not adequately supported to manage mistakes or to manage client demands, they may be at risk of behaving unethically”. The review helped the SRA identify a serious problem in firms, with around 25% of those surveyed reporting that their firms do not have a positive workplace culture. Issues raised included being overworked and intolerably pressured to meet targets, as well as problems with bullying.
Results of review and new guidance
As a result, the SRA published a new formal Guidance Note on workplace environments, focusing on the role that firm culture plays in regulatory misconduct. Soon after, they launched a new consultation on health and well-being rule changes. The consultation suggested changes to the relevant Codes of Conduct which would introduce an express requirement on firms and individuals to treat colleagues fairly and challenge unwanted behaviour. For many in the profession, these changes were long overdue, even as others were nervous that the new rules and regulations would increase the regulatory burden on firms and individuals.
The result was that ensuring staff wellbeing is now a regulatory requirement: according to the new guidance, firms should “do everything they reasonably can to look after their staff’s well being”, which means taking proactive measures to protect and support employees.
Finding the right balance
The SRA’s new Thematic Review and Guidance has significant management implications, making it important for firm managers to familiarise themselves with it. Based on the Guide, law firms should ask themselves questions about what they should be doing to comply with the new guidelines, and what the right balance is for their firm with regard to wellbeing and the pressure that is put on staff.
With its new guidance, the SRA puts toxic workplace culture in the spotlight, with the aim of encouraging better workplace cultures across law firms, more ethical behaviour by solicitors, and fewer disciplinary prosections.
By following the new guidelines, firms can create a positive and supportive workplace culture that promotes the well-being and success of their employees and encourages ethical behaviour, leading to better outcomes for clients.
How can VinciWorks help?
Powered by Omnitrack, our SRA Compliance Management Suite allows businesses to collect the data they need efficiently and securely in one centralised location, taking the stress out of SRA compliance. Compliance teams, COLPs and COFAs can automate data collection, follow-up and reporting processes, and aggregate data via a single dashboard for management reporting and SRA audits, making it easy to capture data on diversity, accounts rules, code of conduct, regulatory breaches, and more.
Founded by Andy Donovan, a former SRA legal policy advisor, Compliance Office’s team of consultants draws on years of experience and a proprietary set of tools and templates to help law firms with their compliance needs. VinciWorks recently partnered with Compliance Office to offer a full range of compliance training, software, and consultancy services. Compliance Office has many years of expertise in SRA conduct, money laundering and accounts rules, and keeps its pulse on the latest AML and SRA rules and requirements.
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