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Thoughts from the Socio Legal Studies Association (SLSA) Conference

By Tim Livesley on 7 April 2015

One of the benefits of managing the research and risk analysis team at the SRA are the invites to attend academic conferences and gain new insights into the market we regulate. Today involved a trip to the Socio Legal Studies Association (SLSA) Conference, which took place at the University of Warwick. 

One of the challenges facing us at the SRA is making sure that our approach is relevant to the wide range of law firms that we regulate, and the different consumers whose interests we must protect. 

Your firms come in all shapes and sizes, and the clients you serve have different capabilities to look after their own interests. The conference really highlighted this diversity, with work streams covering corporate law, administrative justice, employment law and human rights. 

The conference also gave a great opportunity to reflect on the work that academics are carrying out on the sector. I attended a session on legal services for asylum seekers, which provided valuable insights into the challenges faced by practitioners. The session included international perspectives, which provided interesting comparisons and contrasts. 

Valuable lessons also came from a session on research methodologies, which showcased innovative research techniques, such as the use of visual images to explain legal matters. It is often said that a picture can paint a thousand words, and the theme of this session was to demonstrate the truth of this phrase. In this case, visual story lines had been used as an aid to teaching law students, and to communicate legal concepts to members of the public. 

The session showed the possibilities for finding novel ways of communicating complex information. Sometimes innovative approaches can deliver better results than the techniques that have become accepted as the established norm. 

As well as listening to others talk about their work, we were also in action, presenting a paper on the methods we use to understand and assess risk. The presentation gave a good opportunity to discuss our approach with academics and obtain their perspectives on our work. The paper explained how we use different information sources to consistently assess risk in firms and the market. The paper was well received and provided a good chance to talk with academics about the application of risk assessment theory and practices. This is a useful step forward as we work towards modernising our approach in this area. 

The conference spanned over three days and colleagues attended on the following day to talk about our work on promoting diversity in the legal workforce and our programme of legal education reform. I was involved in the discussion on the law firm diversity data toolkit and was really pleased with the positive response this received. The paper was presented on the workstream about nudge theory, and it was great to explain how we are exploring the use of different types of regulatory responses to difficult problems.

Tim Livesley is Risk Analysis and Research Manager at the Solicitors Regulation Authority.