The SRA’s first SLAPPs thematic review is out. It’s not very convincing as a piece of work, but my sense if this is the first foray, and its good that the SRA tried it. “We spoke to a few lawyers about their own practices and said everything was super (save occasional rum behaviour from one or two opponents),” was the flavour of it in the main. Given the way it was done, this was kind of inevitable. There’s no indication of how files were chosen for review and not much sense of how robust the interview process adopted was or could be. There was an entertaining sentence where an interviewee testily ticks the SRA off for not getting the pressures to be commercial. Interesting too that the SRA put it in their report; it felt like a raising of the eyebrow. There are some interesting suggestions about good practice too.
The SRA has emphasised the failures of its interviewees to understand obligations to report misconduct. And I think the lack of knowledge amongst those they spoke to of the SRA’s guidance on litigation is worthy of note (it’s a short and important document; they really should know about it). I wonder too what media lawyers would make of the pre-‘SLAPP’ descriptions of due diligence that were offered (it would be unfair of me to suggest this boiled down to we have *really long chats* with our clients about their cases to test they are ok). The fact that the SRA are doing more digging through further review, whilst they investigate the cases on their books, is very interesting as is the fact that this subsequent review will take in relations between law firms and some of the more shadowy operators in security etc. Perhaps the firms have really long chats with those guys too before they avail themselves or recommend the services to their clients.