Reviews finds mostly positive picture for solicitors working with asylum seekers
Solicitors and law firms are generally serving asylum seekers well, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has found, although there remains room for improvement.
The SRA has carried out an in-depth review of law firms working for asylum seekers. It visited 52 firms, ranging from sole practitioners to large practices, which together dealt with more than 14,000 asylum cases. The review was prompted after the SRA published independent research at the start of the year raising some concerns with the quality of work in this area.
The review, presented to the SRA's Board today, showed that the picture is broadly positive. It found many examples of good work. Much of the best practice involved strong client relationships. Central to this was solicitors' understanding each asylum seeker, including their background and circumstances, and tailoring support and communications for them.
Yet it also found examples of poor practice. These included a lack of clarity on costs, an over-reliance on process or pro-formas, and the use of unsuitable interpreters.
There was evidence that firms did not communicate clearly on what the client could expect from a firm. Some firms lacked experience in carrying out appeals, leading to poorly constructed and evidenced submissions.
Alongside examples of good and poor practice, the SRA has published guidance on key areas to help solicitors deal with the concerns raised and improve their performance. Where it had concerns about a specific firm's work that were serious, it launched an investigation and will take regulatory action if required.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: "Asylum seekers can be some of the most vulnerable of clients. They can have complex and sensitive needs. They could be fleeing torture or imprisonment and the consequences of the wrong legal advice could be tragic.
"Given this potential vulnerability of asylum seekers, it is important that we make sure they are receiving a high standard of legal services. We found that generally solicitors are meeting the expected standards. It was also encouraging to see many examples of firms going above and beyond to meet their client's needs.
"Yet there are still areas where things could be better. We hope our report and guidance will help firms address those concerns and improve. We will take robust action where necessary and will be monitoring overall progress closely."
The report can be found here: www.sra.org.uk/sra/how-we-work/reports/asylum-seekers-report.page
The original independent research, co-funded by the Legal Ombudsman, was published in January: