Tim Livesley, risk analysis and research manager at the SRA, discusses the organisation and in-house work...

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is about to release the results of a detailed survey conducted to understand the sector better.

Solicitors working in-house (i.e. not within law firms or alternative business structures) comprise nearly a fifth of solicitors regulated by the SRA. The Authority was keen to learn more about in-house lawyers to understand how they work and the challenges they face.

The review of the sector was therefore commissioned to deliver more detailed information about these 25,000 solicitors working in-house. This will help the SRA work with the sector in terms of emerging risks and common issues.

The project was led by economic consultancy, Oxera, supported by Professor John Flood of the University of Westminster and market research agency Facts International. It looked at how in-house teams were made up, what work was carried out - reserved or unreserved - and what motivated solicitors to work in-house rather than in traditional law firms.

The aim of the research was to allow us to gain a more detailed insight into the types of work carried out by in-house lawyers. The section of the legal market is large, complex and diverse and effective and proportionate regulation needs to be informed by a stronger evidence base.

We are in the final processes of finalising the report, and we're looking forward to letting everyone know what we've found. What will not be a surprise to many is the sheer scale of the sector now. More than 25,000 solicitors represent a very sizeable chunk of the profession, and we certainly consider any issues facing those working in-house as matters to take seriously.

The SRA has already made provision for in-house solicitors in the first round of its Red Tape Initiative, which aims to reduce bureaucratic rules where possible. The very first two proposed changes - approved by the SRA Board in February - were:
• Remove restrictions on charging by in-house lawyers employed in not-for-profit organisations
• Allow in-house solicitors employed by local authorities to charge charities for legal services

The two were suggested by in-house solicitors, and have now been removed from the Handbook.