SRA slashes intervention panel from 24 to eight

Eight firms have succeeded in winning spots on the radically reduced Solicitors Regulation Authority intervention panel after a competitive tender process.

Blake Lapthorn, Devonshires, Gordons, Lester Aldridge, Morgan Cole, Pannone, Russell-Cooke and Stephensons are the eight firms that have been appointed as intervention agents on the panel, which is reviewed every three years.

All eight firms were previously appointed to the panel and will act as the Law Society’s agents when an ’intervention’ takes place. The panel covers all of England and Wales and the appointed firms span a broad geographical remit.

Yorkshire firm Gordons has handled over 50 interventions for the SRA over the past 10 years, including Manchester-based firm Consumer Credit Litigation Solicitors in 2010, the largest-ever intervention undertaken.

South East firm Lester Aldridge, which was appointed to the panel for the first time in 2009, has been reappointed to the panel.

The last tender process took place in 2009, when the number of legal advisers was reduced from 25 to 24 (6 July 2009). This followed more drastic reductions six years previously, when the number of spots was cut from 80 (26 June 2006).

It is understood that each firm has been assigned several work packages as part of their new remit, with only five firms winning responsibility for all work packages.

As part of the review, the SRA has also introduced several changes to make the intervention process more efficient and reduce costs. These include an improved system for recording and distributing client papers following an intervention that will involve the SRA’s own archive unit being involved from the outset. Previously, such administrative roles were undertaken by the intervention agent, but the SRA has implemented this change to save time and money and enable its agents to focus on dealing with urgent client matters and queries.

Commenting on the new panel appointments and changes to the intervention process, Helen Herniman, director of post enforcement at the SRA, said: “We believe that the changes we have made will ensure the work involved in an intervention will be completed more quickly, minimising the disruption for clients, and more efficiently, minimising the costs of the intervention. The smaller panel will ensure that agents are able to develop expertise which will benefit the SRA and, crucially, the clients of the intervened firm who the intervention is intended to protect.”