SRA to pilot post-Hunt regulatory regime

The watchdog said 11 City firms, including Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May, are participating in the scheme. SRA chairman Peter Williamson said they would work “to address issues arising from Nick Smedley’s review of corporate legal work”.

It comes as Lord David Hunt, shadow minister for business enterprise and regulation,  published the findings of a year-long review into how the profession should be regulated. The report, which was commissioned by The Law Society, favours self regulation.

“I believe that the new focus on internal and governance and compliance functions advocated in the Smedley report, backed up with a proportionate and carefully targeted regulatory regime from the SRA, points the way forward for all the best run law firms,” Hunt said in the report.

In March, former Ministry of Justice (MoJ) civil servant Nick Smedley, called for radical reform of the SRA to better reflect the firms it polices (26 March 2009).

City firms have long lobbied for a regulator that was better suited to their needs, arguing that the SRA spends a disproportionate amount of time on high street firms when regulation is largely funded by large corporate firms.

The City of London Law Society (CLLS) warned Hunt he should not ”underestimate the sense of grievance we feel in continuing to subsidise the regulation of other firms while the regulation of our firms is not being conducted in a manner appropriate to our business and our clients”.

Earlier this year the SRA moved to address this issue by putting in place a board littered with City stars (31 August 2009).

The board, which will come into being in January, is chaired by former Herbert Smith litigation partner Charles Plant. Plant will be responsible for driving the SRA pilot, which will focus mainly on regulation of corporate firms.

Welcoming the Hunt report, CLLS chairman David McIntosh said the body “looked forward to working with a renewed SRA towards improved and more effective regulation of the practice of corporate law with the emphasis on internal regulation and compliance: not recrimination”.

Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Herbert Smith, Linklaters, Lovells, McFarlanes, Norton Rose, and Travers Smith have all fielded representatives for the SRA pilot.