The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) welcomed a small group of stakeholders to formally open its office in Wales and to announce its plan for growth in the nation on Monday 6 February 2023. Its plans were celebrated by the Counsel General for Wales during the launch event.
The SRA has established a growing team and visible presence in the past 18 months, aided by the appointment of the first Head of Welsh Affairs, Liz Withers, in 2021. While the staff have been employed in Wales for some time, the pandemic delayed the opportunity to officially mark the establishment of the Wales office.
The regulator was joined by the Counsel General of Wales, Mick Antoniw MS at the event. He remarked that the growth of the SRA’s presence in the nation is an important recognition of the changes in the legal profession in Wales, and the justice system in Wales.
The Counsel General congratulated the SRA on the official opening of its new office, ‘further cementing your presence in Wales’, and added:
“Thank you for your significant contributions in developing an inclusive and sustainable Welsh legal sector, for better justice across our nation.”
Anna Bradley, Chair of the SRA, said:
“We wanted to share the moment of establishing ourselves in this physical way, in Wales which has been quite a long time in the thinking. We now have a fully functioning office, which currently hosts five members of staff working here on a permanent, hybrid basis. We have grand plans to increase the number of employees based in Wales extensively – we’re hoping that to have a hub for about 50 or 60 people here in due course and are actively recruiting.
“Our expansion plans are due to the recognition of the huge opportunity for us to reach out into Welsh communities – an important part of our recent Strategic Plan. We hope that having a base here reinforces our commitment as an organisation to really getting to grips with the differences between English and Welsh law and thinking about it in all the work we do.”
Bradley offered a flavour of recent work undertaken by the SRA in Wales, which has included:
- It’s ‘clear and strong commitment’ to ensure that people can undertake the SQE in the medium of Welsh
- Building on its work around innovation and technology – ‘a major part of our strategy in 2022, particularly because we see the opportunity for lawtech to help fulfil some of those access to justice gaps’. Bradley noted this focus has particularly important in light of addressing the specific challenges to access to justice in Wales
- Regular engagement with the Counsel General and the Welsh Government’s Justice Policy and Social Justice teams, and other stakeholders for the sector in Wales.
The SRA is also currently working on making changes to the Solicitors Qualifying Exam assessment specification to make sure candidates are aware of the need to understand both English and Welsh laws and where there are differences.
As the SRA comes to the end of its current strategy timeline, Bradley urged lawyers in Wales to take part in upcoming consultations on the main priorities for the regulator, in Wales and beyond. She said:
“Technology and innovation have played an important part of our strategy for the last three years, and now we’re thinking about what the priorities should be for the next period.
“I hope that over the course of the next six months, as we run out a consultation on what those strategic priorities should be, we can have conversations with the legal sector in Wales about how we give the right emphasis to issues which are of importance here in Wales, as we write that strategy. It is a great opportunity to have constructive conversations about where you would like us to focus our efforts.”
The SRA’s office in Wales is located at 33 Cathedral Road, Cardiff.