Professor Gus John, a consultant and well-known expert in equality and race relations issues, has been commissioned to carry out an independent comparative case review to determine if there is any disparity in the Solicitors Regulation Authority‘s (SRA) regulatory decision- making between black and minority ethnic (BME), and white solicitors.
The move forms part of a raft of measures agreed by the SRA in May this year working with stakeholders, including the External Implementation Group (EIG), as part of its commitment to being fair, proportionate and transparent. The SRA and Professor John are currently developing the terms of reference for the appointment after which they will be passed to the EIG for consideration.
Professor John, who has carried out a similar exercise for the Crown Prosecution Service, already chairs the equality, diversity and social mobility advisory group for the Legal Education and Training Review by the SRA with the Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards (IPS).
Professor John said: “I am pleased to have been approached to undertake this review as it is an important exercise for the SRA, and for BME solicitors and their practitioner groups. The review will draw on a number of random cases and the evidence gathered should help the organisation respond to the recent allegation from the Society of Black Lawyers that it treats BME solicitors more harshly than their white counterparts.
“Although I cannot at this stage presume what the case audit will reveal, whatever the outcome, it shows the SRA is responsive to the concerns of practitioner groups and has taken another important step towards being transparent.
“The audit’s focus will be around the quality of decision-making, building on the case review previously carried out by Lord Herman Ouseley which focused on whether there were clear processes in place for fair decision-making and whether these were being applied objectively and proportionately. BME solicitors form a significant part of the legal profession and it is essential that a regulator such as the SRA has the confidence of all its stakeholder groups and is willing to listen and address any concerns so that it can review its processes and improve them if necessary. ”
Professor John expects to complete the report by late autumn but the date will depend on satisfactory progress with the case review.