In an unusual break from its mantra of transparency, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has decided it will no longer hold public board meetings or give members of the legal press permission to attend.
The regulator instead said it will hold a post-meeting briefing with the chief executive and other senior directors, open to the public and media, and send out written briefings of board discussions.
The regulators most recent meetings had received very low attendance, often with no members of the public attending. The page detailing public board meetings on the SRA website has since been removed.
The SRA will now hold board meetings around the country in addition to London and Birmingham, hosting a meeting in Cardiff on Wednesday. The board events would include practice engagement with public focus groups. The SRA said an audience in Cardiff included around 70 people.
The SRA has also put in place measures that will include sharing information with the media under embargo ahead of board events.
However, the Legal Services Act 2007 calls on the regulatory body to be accountable and transparent.
The SRA is currently considering key changes to the Solicitors Qualifying Examination after a consultation closed in January.
The move comes as the SRA prepares to push for greater independence from the representative body the Law Society. The Legal Services Board (LSB) last month announced its aim to commence a formal investigation into the governance of the SRA and Law Society.
In June last year, SRA chief executive Paul Philip (pictured) said the issue of separation was about ‘public perception, public trust in solicitors and in the regulation of solicitors’.
The SRA currently has independence in terms of its governance, but is structurally linked to the Law Society with around 30% of a solicitors annual practising fee goes to the Law Society, while the rest goes to the SRA.