The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have published their latest Risk Outlook, setting out their view on the key risks and challenges currently facing the profession.
This year, the Outlook is being published against the backdrop of Covid-19 which, the SRA acknowledge, has brought many challenges for the legal sector and the wider community. and exacerbated some of the wider, day-to-day risks that already existed. Some of these happened very quickly, for example when the number of cybercrime reports recorded by the National Crime Agency rose 400 percent in the first weeks of lockdown as criminals tried to take advantage of those – including law firms – working from home. Highlighting the rise in cases of money laundering and cybercrime attacks during the first half of 2020, the Outlook predicts that risk in these areas is only likely to increase further into 2021. In particular, it points to the 300% increase in phishing scams seen during the first two months of lockdown and warns of similar spikes being likely as Covid vaccines come online.
As well as looking at cybersecurity, however, this year’s Risk Outlook has information on Brexit and its implications, reminds firms of their obligations to keep client money safe and to prevent money laundering and reiterates that ensuring high standards is key.
Whilst predicting the future is never easy, particularly where Brexit is concerned, the SRA’s assessment of risks in the sector is accompanied by suggestions about what firms need to do meet obligations and make sure they are resilient and well prepared for whatever comes their way.
As well as anti-money laundering and cyber security, other priority risks identified by the SRA for the coming year include issues such as protecting client money, diversity in the profession and standards of service, maintaining integrity and ethics and ensuring legal needs are met.