Professor Joan Loughrey joins Reference Group for SRA research
Professor Joan Loughrey was recently asked to join the Reference Group of an independent research project commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on how City & Global (C&G) firms are preserving professionalism and managing liability in competitive international legal practice
The research was commissioned to improve the SRA’s understanding of how the lawyer-client relationships work in larger corporate firms and to better understand the impacts these relationships can have on solicitors' professionalism. The SRA noted the importance of such research in the wake of the Tomlinson report, which raised concerns about how financial institutions were influencing their law firms.
The Reference Group was made up of a mix of City law firm representatives and leading academics including Professor Joan Loughrey (University of Leeds), Professor Richard Moorhead (University College London), Nick Eastwell (SRA Chief Advisor, City Law Firms), Tim Livesley (SRA Chief Economist) and Arvinder Dhaliwal (SRA Researcher). The group was chaired by SRA Regulatory Manager Rachel Hatfield. Over fifty senior corporate and finance lawyers from twenty of the largest corporate law firms in England and Wales were interviewed by independent researchers, Dr Steven Vaughan and legal consultant, Claire Coe Smith.
Respondents reported that there has been a shift in the balance of power in the City's legal services market - from law firms to clients. This is shown in how the major corporate and financial institutions seek to impose their own terms of engagement on law firms. Interestingly, the researchers also suggested that there is no common understanding of the concept or value of independence amongst transactional lawyers.
The SRA have advised that research will help them refine their regulatory model and handbook in an evolving legal services market and that they will encourage corporate lawyers and firms to think carefully about issues raised in this research to ensure they remain focused on ethical practice.