Keeping Your Law Firm Staff Safe

On 1 June 2020, the British Government’s lockdown, imposed since mid-March in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, began to ease. In England, groups of up to six people can now meet up, as long as they stay outdoors and maintain a distance apart of two metres. Schools have re-opened for Years One and Six, and Reception. And those who could not work from home are now being urged to return to their place of employment. Although most law firms have […]

Landmark Decision On Dishonesty Test

On 29 April 2020, the Court of Appeal, in R v Barton & Booth [2020] EWCA Crim 575 provided an important decision on the test for dishonesty in a criminal context. For solicitors facing an SRA investigation or SDT hearing for dishonesty allegations, this case provides that the test set out in Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) t/a Crockfords [2017] UKSC 67; is preferred to the test in R v Ghosh [1982] QB 1053. The facts The Appellant, A, was […]

Supporting Your Team’s Mental Health During Lockdown

It is fair to say that during periods of uncertainty and crisis, some people appear to cope without difficultly, while others struggle. The word ‘appear’ is relevant here. Some people are highly adept at looking like they are coping, while beneath the surface they are riddled with anxiety and worry about the economy, their jobs, their family, or their health. For employers, this poses a challenge given the duty of care they owe to their employees’ physical and mental health […]

Ethical Business Practice During Lockdown

The present period of lockdown is testing both individuals and law firms in new and unexpected ways. Many parents are having to juggle supporting their children with home-schooling while simultaneously working from home; no mean feat. Likewise, legal businesses are having to find a balance between keeping enough money flowing in, looking after their staff and clients, and adhering to the government guidance designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some businesses within our profession have made the deliberate decision […]

How Your Law Firm Can Weather the Coronavirus Pandemic

There is no doubt, we live in uncertain times. With Coronavirus infecting business sentiment, not just people, law firms across the UK will be reviewing their position and putting in place measures to protect their commercial interests and those of their employees. The legal sector will play a vital role as the weeks and months progress. Whether it is assisting individuals through private client matters, debt, or divorce, or companies with complex commercial contract disputes, changes to leasehold agreement, or […]

Protecting your Law Firm from Unintended SRA Breaches Due to Coronavirus Homeworking

The current Coronavirus pandemic is posing a considerable headache for businesses across the length and breadth of the UK, and indeed the whole world. Law firms are needing to react quickly to ensure the continuity of their operations. Indeed, this week many Solicitors have been urgently setting up their home offices and implementing restrictions for social distancing. Law firms switching to a home working model do need to be careful, however, that in doing so, they are not inadvertently breaching […]

What do the SDT’s Strategic & Operational Plans 2020–2023 Tell Us About Future Legal Regulation?

The SDT recently published two separate documents, one outlining their Strategic Plan for 2020 – 2023, and another their Operational Plan for 2020 – 2023. In the words of Edward Nally, President of the SDT and Chairman of SDTAL, “This is the first time we have published our Strategic and Operational Plans. It is a practical example of our desire to be transparent in the delivery of our work”. Mr Nally, who is currently in his second and final term […]

Why Should I Consider An SRA Agreed Outcome

In November 2019, it was reported by the Law Gazette that the number of ‘sitting days’ for the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) this year is projected to be “vastly” down (26%) on last year. This represents a reduction in sitting days from 406 in 2019 to 300; a considerable reduction by any measure. In part, it is believed this is due to the increase in disciplinary cases resolved by the SRA by entering into ‘Agreed Outcomes’ with the Respondents. But […]

Sexual Misconduct At Record Levels Within The Law Profession

January was not a positive month for the UK legal sector press coverage. Firstly, following a Freedom of Information response by the SRA, and as reported in The Guardian, it has been revealed that reports of sexual misconduct within law firms have more than doubled in less than five years (to 63 in 2018/19). Only a few days later, the Financial Times published an article entitled, ‘Drinking culture in legal world under scrutiny following scandals’. While of course, the overwhelming […]

A 60 Second Guide To Regulatory Settlement Agreements

Fortunately, not all Solicitors Regulation Authority investigations result in formal prosecution and an appearance in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to negotiate a Regulatory Settlement Agreement with the SRA. Similar to attempts to settle civil litigation matters early, all negotiations related to a Regulatory Settlement Agreement are without prejudice. What is a Regulatory Settlement Agreement? A Regulatory Settlement Agreement is a formal agreement entered into by the SRA and the solicitor/law firm. […]

How Solicitors Can Survive An SRA Investigation

Few things cause a solicitor or Manager of a law firm more stress and anxiety than news that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is conducting an investigation into their practice. If you have an understanding of the process however, along with properly organised files and accounts and the assistance of professional support in the event that an interview is requested, an SRA investigation can be dealt with in a calm, pragmatic manner. The SRA investigation procedure Naturally, little notice is […]

Defending Disciplinary Action By the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC)

The role of the conveyancer is often underestimated. While under pressure from all sides to bring transactions to a successful conclusion, conveyancers must ensure that key issues are not mishandled or ignored, as doing so may later cause unforeseen consequences. Not thoroughly reading through forms completed by the client, failing to spot an important restrictive covenant, or not realising that a neighbour has the right of way across a property being purchased are just some examples of where errors may […]

Interpreting the New SDT Rules Introduced on 25th November 2019

On 25th November 2019, the new Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules 2019 (SDPR 2019) came into force. From the outset, it is important to note that for any matters certified as demonstrating a case to answer on or before 24th November 2019, the older SDPR 2007 rules will apply; the new rules will only apply to certified cases after this date. The changes are intended to reflect changes in how disciplinary handling has evolved since 2007 and to simplify the process. […]

Defending Professional Disciplinary Proceedings before the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Standards matter; of this there is little dispute, but when it comes to the development and management of land, real estate, construction and infrastructure, standards are vital to safety, economic sustainability, and health. As a professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) exists to define and regulate the standards of the sector and its members, including charted surveyors (with the designation MRICS or FRICS). Given the remit of RICS, it is fair to say the scope of standards, […]

Defending Professional Disciplinary Proceedings before the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales

As of 2019, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) has over 181,000 members , including students, across 148 countries. And this number is climbing at a higher rate than ever, with nearly 9,000 signing up last year. Add to this that the Institute has offices in mainland Europe, the middle east, and across Asia, and that 16% of members are located outside of the UK, there is little doubt that to oversee sectoral adherence to rules […]

Defending against action by the Architects Registration Board (ARB)

In the UK, the Architects Act 1997 (AA 1997) provides for the regulation of the architects’ profession, with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) being responsible for its oversight. The ARB exists to: manage the UK register of qualified architects determine the qualifications and experience necessary to allow inclusion in the register of architects publish a code of standards of conduct and practice; Investigate complaints about an architect’s conduct or competence protect the title of “architect”   The potential impact of […]

Changes to SRA Rules and Accounts Rules

As part of their recent Looking to the Future programme, the SRA took the bold decision to significantly simplify and reduce the prescriptiveness of its Account Rules. The result of this effort is the replacement of the SRA Handbook, with the slim-line SRA Standards and Regulations, which come into force on 25th November 2019. But what are the changes, and how will these affect law firms? Some of the changes are listed below. Simplified and condensed The SRA Handbook, while […]

How To Avoid And Challenge An SRA Intervention

An SRA intervention is the SRA’s nuclear weapon. If your firm is currently being investigated and you fear an intervention may be possible, you must take the situation seriously. An SRA intervention can destroy not only a practice, but the career of a solicitor. The SRA may give advance warning that an intervention is imminent, but they may not. The power to intervene is contained in Schedule 1 of the Solicitors Act 1974. There are comparable powers relating to licensed […]

Solicitors Need To Take Care With NDAs

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) have suddenly become controversial. The use of NDAs in the context of protecting sensitive commercial information and trade secrets continues to pose no immediate problem.  However, solicitors instructed to produce a document designed to prevent one party from complaining or seeking support for alleged abuse within the workplace, even at a subtle level, must now proceed with the utmost caution. In March 2018, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) issued a warning regarding the use of NDAs which […]

The Law Society v The SRA

Fresh Attempt To Strengthen Client Protection Concerning Freelance Solicitors. The Law Society has recently asked the Legal Services Board (LSB) to impose extra requirements on solicitors who may otherwise be free to offer legal services without insurance in the employment of an unregulated business. Although the LSB has effectively approved the reforms, they can be amended. The Law Society’s President, Christina Blacklaws, in a letter to the LSB, stated: “Freelance solicitors (or at least those providing reserved services) are required […]

New Decision Throws Doubt On Solicitors’ Ability To Rectify Own Mistake

It is common practice for solicitors, upon spotting a mistake, to offer to rectify their error at the firm’s own expense. This is often a more cost-effective solution for the client than insisting they go to a new law firm for independent advice. The client is always free to choose another law firm to rectify the mistake and must be advised they can sue their current solicitor for professional negligence (if this is the case). However, the recent case of […]

Is Blockchain The Answer To Law Firm Cyber Security?

Law firms across the globe are becoming victims of ever-more sophisticated cybercrimes. In May 2019, two American law firms lost over £92,300 ($117,000), following a malware attack by an overseas cybercrime network. And in the UK, the SRA issued 217 scam alerts on their website last year, warning practices and the public about the cleverness of cybercriminals duplicating reputable and genuine law firm websites and spoofing email addresses in a bid to steal client money. In the endless fight against […]

Are You Fulfilling Your File Storage Obligations?

The safe and secure management of client files is a vital consideration for those in the legal sector. In the same manner as a medical professional, solicitor case files contain deeply sensitive, highly confidential personal, legal, and financial information. Unfortunately, there are some examples in which solicitors have not acted to protect the best interests of their clients. In such matters, the SRA has endeavoured to take action. In a recent case, Hertfordshire solicitor Jeffrey Allan Jackson, was fined £3,750, […]

Mind Your Language – Solicitors And Social Media

Social media is undoubtedly one of the biggest phenomena of the past decade, affording us unprecedented access to the lives and opinions of others. Whether you love using social media, or actively avoid it, it is here to stay. One of the downsides, as many see it, is that social media is not compatible with personal privacy. Comments, posts, photos, videos, likes, memes, and emoticons provide a permanent record of your thoughts and opinions. And for career professionals, this can […]

What are the Character and Suitability Requirements for Aspiring Solicitors?

The legal profession is not for everyone; as with any occupation, there are particular characteristics which contribute to a successful career in law, and top grades at law school is not necessarily one of them. Honesty, and strong moral and ethical approach to law practice is just as important. SRA Bans Solicitor for being ‘offensive, insulting and threatening’ There are very solid reasons why the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) demands the highest personal and professional standards of those on its […]

Overhauling the UK Money Laundering SARs Regime

Make no mistake, money laundering is a major global epidemic, involving sums of money potentially in the trillions of US dollars. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), money laundering is estimated to range in value from 2 – 5% of global GDP, which at the higher end, equates to US$2 trillion. In the words of UNODC, “the deeper “dirty money” gets into the international banking system, the more difficult it is to identify its origin”. […]

A 60 Second Guide To Regulatory Settlement Agreements

Fortunately, not all Solicitors Regulation Authority investigations result in formal prosecution and an appearance in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).  Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to negotiate a Regulatory Settlement Agreement with the SRA.  Similar to attempts to settle civil litigation matters early, all negotiations related to a Regulatory Settlement Agreement are without prejudice. What is a Regulatory Settlement Agreement? A Regulatory Settlement Agreement is a formal agreement entered into by the SRA and the solicitor/law firm.  […]

Data Breaches – How To Protect Your Law Firm

Various Claimants v WM Morrison Supermarkets Plc [2018] EWCA Civ 2339 Since the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into force in May 2018, much emphasis has been placed on protecting your organisation from external data breaches.  However, the decision in Various Claimants v WM Morrison Supermarkets Plc in late 2018 reminds us that often the greatest enemy lies within. The case involved a class action brought by 5,518 employees with ten lead claimants; the main question being, was Morrisons […]

Solicitors and the Media

Solicitors are often called on to deal with media enquiries. From commenting on a particular development of law to acting as a media representative of a client and their family, dealing with the press is part and parcel of working in the law. However, as with everything in the legal profession, rules and ethics apply to how a solicitor speaks to the media, especially if it is on behalf of a client. Earlier this month, the Law Society Gazette reported […]

What Is A Section 43 Order And How To Defend Against One

In October 2018, the High Court ordered a retrial after the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found Francisco Rodriguez-Purcet, the former head of marketing and business development at a now-defunct law firm (Tandem Law), guilty of dishonesty. It transpired that the Defendant had a long history of mental illness and was not given a chance to defend himself. The SDT’s decision led to a section 43 Order, which allows the SRA to regulate any non-qualified persons working in a law firm. […]

What does liberalisation of the legal market mean for the UK law industry?

The UK legal market has always been a bastion of robust regulation and oversight, but things are about to change drastically. Earlier in 2018, the SRA submitted plans to the Legal Services Board (LSB) aimed at liberalising the legal sector.  In part, the aim of the recommendations was to allow self-employed solicitors to become freelancers – effectively meaning they would practise law outside of the control of the SRA.  On the face of it, this may seem an odd recommendation […]

Three Solicitors Struck Off For Dishonesty After Court Rejects Mental Health Arguments

The anticipated case of Solicitors Regulation Authority v James & Ors was decided last week, ending the careers of three solicitors, and causing severe division within the profession. The case originated out of an SRA appeal against the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s (SDT) decision to invoke a sentence of suspended suspension as opposed to striking-off the solicitors for dishonest acts. The three cases involved: • Sovani James – a former junior solicitor with McMillan Williams who, in order to give the impression […]

Everything You Need To Know About The New SRA Price Transparency Guidelines

  From December 2018, all regulated law firms will need to publish certain information regarding pricing and services.  The requirement falls under the SRA’s new Transparency Rules. Regulated legal practices will need to publish the prices they charge and what is included for this price across the following practice areas: For individual clients: • Residential conveyancing (Freehold sale or purchase, leasehold sale or purchase, mortgages and re-mortgages) • Probate (uncontested cases with all assets in the UK) • Motoring offences (summary only offences) […]

‘Watershed’ Case Proves A Warning For Law Firms Using Subcontractors

Gempride Ltd v Bamrah & Anor [2018] EWCA Civ 1367 In June 2018, the Court of Appeal issued what has been called a “watershed” decision in relation to misconduct in Detailed Assessment proceedings. The Court issued a penalty which saw the successful claimant lose 50% of their profit costs for claiming an inflated hourly rate. A stern warning was also issued stating that solicitors who instructed cost draftsmen and other subcontractors “remain ultimately responsible for the acts and omissions of […]

Fraudsters Are Continuing To Target Law Firms

In early September 2018, the SRA warned fraudsters are targeting unsuspecting law firms with new types of work in an effort to defraud them out of client money. The Law Society Gazette reported the SRA had discovered fraudsters had approached two firms with offers to expand their existing services. Once taken on by the firms and free from supervision, they were able to access client accounts. And it appears monies have been stolen. Law firms are becoming increasingly vulnerable to […]

Summer Is Coming To An End – Beware Of Fraudulent Claims From Holiday Makers

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued a new warning notice regarding false holiday sickness claims. As summer comes to an end and holiday-makers return home, it is imperative Solicitors are vigilant when it comes to ensuring holiday sickness claims are genuine. In 2017, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) reported that holiday sickness claims had increased by 500 percent, a vast difference between the number of claims made by European tourists visiting the same hotels during identical periods. […]

SRA Announces Reforms

In June 2018, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced a series of reforms. These are designed to give legal professionals greater flexibility and improve access to justice. The reforms have been generated from the Looking to the Future programme, which has seen four major consultations and the involvement of over 35,000 professionals and members of the public. The rationale behind the reforms The reforms are aimed to remove pages and pages of complex, costly rules, and allow firms to concentrate […]

SRA Criticised After PI Solicitor Cleared Of Settling Claims Without Permission

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) criticised the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over its handling of an investigation and subsequent prosecution of an “honest and credible” partner, Mr Vincent Gray, of the Greater Manchester practice, Dunne and Gray. The case highlights how the SRA can cause significant distress by taking years between investigating a matter and issuing a Rule 5 statement. The pressure on Mr Gray was further intensified when the authority applied for a costs order against him, despite the […]

UK Law Firms Still Challenged By Money Laundering Risks

Earlier this year, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) revealed it had implemented disciplinary measures against several law firms who had allegedly committed money laundering breaches. The authority stated it had carried out a review of 50 firms to test their compliance with tough new anti-money laundering regulations. Only around a third had carried out a mandatory risk assessment of their anti-money laundering procedures or were in the process of developing one. And in six of the practices, which ranged from […]

All Change – Get Ready For The SRA Handbook 2019 And New Account Rules

In June 2018, the Solicitors Regulation Authority published phase two of its Handbook reforms and a draft of the revised Handbook itself. The existing SRA Handbook is seen as complex and not particularly user-friendly – a fact acknowledged by the Authority itself in the statement. In addition, the existing Handbook needs to be updated to reflect the changes and challenges in the legal sector. There is not expected to be a great deal of amendments to the proposed changes to […]

How To Avoid And Challenge An SRA Intervention

An SRA intervention is the SRA’s nuclear weapon. If your firm is currently being investigated and you fear an intervention may be possible, you must take the situation seriously. An SRA intervention can destroy not only a practice, but the career of a solicitor. The SRA may give advance warning that an intervention is imminent, but they may not. The power to intervene is contained in schedule 1 of the Solicitors Act 1974. There are comparable powers relating to licensed […]

Can a Solicitor Who Has Been Struck Off Be Restored To The Roll?

A recent article in the Law Society Gazette has stated the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has confirmed that it will ask this year whether the bar for finding solicitors guilty of misconduct should be lowered from the criminal to the civil standard of proof . The Bar Standards Board has already agreed that from March 2019, cases will be decided on the balance of probabilities. The Law Society says that no evidence has yet been produced to support altering the […]

Three Steps To Prevent Hackers Targeting Your Law Firm

Late last month, UK law firm Duncan Lewis alerted regulatory bodies and the National Crime Agency Action Fraud team that a data breach occurred in their firm. According to a report in the Law Society Gazette, hackers infiltrated the IT system of the national firm to harvest data before attempting to spread data through social media . Duncan Lewis urged people not to open any links to Twitter accounts that may contain sensitive information as it worked to contain the […]

How Law Firms Can Protect The Mental Health Of Their Staff

Do many law graduates understand the true nature of working in a law firm? I know that when I was in the midst of my law exams, the pressure seemed unbearable at times. But nothing compared to meeting billing targets and client expectations. Like the medical profession, there is often an attitude within the ranks of senior partners that long hours and harsh workloads are part and parcel of the high remuneration and prestige associated with being a solicitor. After […]

The SRA Accounts Rules (And What Happens When Your Breach Them)

In 2015, former Law Society council member Michael Webster was jailed for eight months after being found guilty of making five fraudulent transactions from his law firm’s client account to the value of £75,605.27. Mr Webster, who was also struck off the Roll of Solicitors, was ordered to pay £48,000 to a Latvian-based indemnity insurer. Client account discrepancies can cause the public to lose trust in the legal profession; therefore, it is taken extremely seriously. In 2015, 19% of cases […]

Wingate & Anr v Solicitors Regulation Authority and Solicitors Regulation Authority v Malins – Recent Appeals Involving Dishonesty and Integrity

The level of honesty and integrity demanded by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is incredibly high. And the penalty for acting dishonestly or with a lack of integrity can end an otherwise promising legal career. In Bolton v The Law Society, the then Master of the Rolls, Sir Thomas Bingham, stated: “It is required of lawyers practising in this country that they should discharge their professional duties with integrity, probity and complete trustworthiness- That requirement applies as much to barristers […]

Are Firms Doing Enough To Protect Solicitors From Stress?

Thanks to efforts by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Ruby Wax, and Elon Musk , mental health, for long the poor relation of health services in Britain, is now being taken seriously. Although many people may dismiss royalty and celebrities for opening up about their own day-to-day struggles (after all, aren’t they supposed to have the perfect life?), the fact they are breaking down the stigma associated with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar […]

Money-laundering – Know How To Spot The Red Flags

In one telling scene from the opening episode of the BBC’s McMafia, Alex Godman, played by James McNorton, is asked how he might send funds to Mumbai “without leaving a trace”. His answer: by setting up an elaborate chain of companies in different tax havens. A “special purpose vehicle” in the Caymans would lend money to another similar vehicle in the Bahamas. And so on. This is classic money laundering. It may sound like fiction. However, it’s real. And unwitting […]

Getting Ready For The GDPR – Top Three Tips For Law Firms

The General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) come into force in less than four months. According to the latest statistics available, only 25% of over 150 legal sector IT decision-makers said their firms were GDPR ready . The impact of the GDPR cannot be overstated. Moderately serious breaches can result in fines of €10 million or 2% of annual global turnover, whichever is greater. Major breaches may incur a maximum penalty of €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover. Now, […]

A Solicitors Guide To Fee Sharing and Referrals

Many law firms rely on business being referred from other practices or other third parties. However, this practice is strictly monitored by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to ensure the best interests of the client and ongoing trust in the legal profession is protected. In January 2018, a personal injury sole practitioner was suspended for two and a half years and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs after admitting to paying unlawful referral fees for claims and running cases which […]

How To Protect Your Law Firm From A Cyber-Security Breach

In October 2017, leading international firm, Appleby, admitted that in 2016 it had been the victim of a cyber-security breach which led to the Paradise Papers scandal. The firm, which advises corporations, high-net-worth individuals and families on wealth protection, stated that clients, which include some FTSE 100 companies, may have had some of their financial details leaked. The huge batch of leaked documents was passed to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists […]

Can I Have My SRA Suspension Lifted?

It was recently reported in the Law Society Gazette that a solicitor who had worked overseas for over a decade was unable to convince the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) to lift a suspension which would allow him to return to practice law in England and Wales. The SDT stated that George Babalola was ‘crassly stupid’ in 2005 when he made excessive claims on legal aid cost and disbursements and then being dishonest with investigators. Mr Babalola returned to Nigeria after […]

Protecting Your Law Firm From Copycat Website Cyber-Fraud

In October’s Law Society Gazette, it was reported that City firm, Bates Wells Braithwaite, fell victim of an attempted cyber-fraud in which photographs and details of several of its lawyers were stolen and displayed on a scam website. The photographs were used on the fake website, with fraudsters changing the first names of the solicitors. The scam website was only discovered when a staff member searched for her name online. These scams are known as ‘copycat websites’ and are a […]

Explaining Section 43 Orders

In early 2015, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) banned a cleaner from working in a law firm without its permission. This situation followed on from a 2012 High Court decision against Murugan Gopalan (formerly known as Rajagopal Murugananthan) for the sum of £37,779.14 in favour of Harrow Solicitors & Advocates. Mr Gopalan had received this money when he was working as a cleaner. The money was stolen by another employee at the firm. According to a report in the Law […]

The ‘Uberisation’ Of The Legal Profession

The Solicitors Regulation Authority last month outlined plans to allow solicitors to practice on a freelance basis. They would not be required to register as a sole practitioner or be employed by a regulated firm. Unsurprisingly, many in the profession have thrown their hands up in horror at the idea of allowing solicitors to work unregulated and on a freelance basis. The Law Society has accused the regulator of turning the legal sector into a “wild west marketplace”. Although some […]

What Constitutes A Breach Of Solicitor’s Undertaking?

An undertaking is a commitment by a solicitor to do something or not do something. Failing to comply with an undertaking can result in disciplinary action being taken by the Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA). The definition of an undertaking An undertaking is defined as: an oral or written statement of an intention to do something or refrain from doing something (the word undertaking need to be included), which is made on behalf of you or the firm you work for […]

Getting Your Law Firm Ready For GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May 2018. Law firms that fail to prepare in time, so they can comply with the regulations on day one, risk facing the regulator’s wrath. Given that legal practices operate largely on trust, the fallout from a data breach could be disastrous. And the reputational damage would come on top of the potential fines of up to the greater of €20 million or 4% of a company’s global turnover. To […]

New Case Demonstrates Inconsistencies In SDT Decisions

In a recent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) hearing, it was ruled that a solicitor who backdated a document in a “blind panic” could continue working in the legal profession. Although this is a welcome decision, given it has saved a young solicitor from being struck off and thereby ending a promising career, it highlights the inconsistency of SDT decisions. In other cases with similar facts, the accused has been struck of the Roll of Solicitors. The facts of the incident […]

SRA Interventions Double Year-On-Year

A recent news report in the Law Society Gazette states that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is intervening in more multi-office firms and has experienced a spike in the number of practices it has shut down . The regulator made 20 interventions between January and May this year, double the number in the same period last year. There has also been a notable increase in the number of medium-size firms being investigated. An intervention is the most dramatic action the […]

Lack of Integrity and Dishonesty – Do They Mean The Same In Relation To Solicitors’ Regulations?

Three extraordinary decisions have been delivered by the High Court regarding the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal’s (SDT) interpretation of ‘lack of integrity’ and ‘dishonesty.’ The issue at the centre of the cases was: are integrity and dishonesty cut from the same cloth in relation to solicitors’ regulations or can they exist as separate offences? Newell-Austin v SRA [2017] EWHC 411 Deidre Newell-Austin appeared to have the legal world at her feet. Under 40, she ran a practice in London, employing two […]

The SRA Decision-Making Process Explained

Being subject to a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) investigation is certain to be a stressful experience for any firm. If you are a managing partner who suddenly finds their law firm being investigated by the SRA, the more knowledge you have about the regulatory body’s decision-making process, the better. A law firm can be investigated by the SRA if there is a report of misconduct or financial strife, resulting either from a complaint from the public or the firm conducting […]

Law firm Leigh Day cleared of Iraq case professional misconduct allegations

On 9th June, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) cleared London law firm Leigh Day and three of its solicitors of all 20 allegations of professional misconduct over Iraq war murder compensation claims. The trial, instigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) after a three-year investigation,lasted seven weeks and is believed to have cost in the region of £10million. The full judgment and reasoning is expected to be published in August. In summary, after a week of deliberations,the Tribunal found that […]

Regulatory settlement agreements

A regulatory settlement agreement(RSA) is used between the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and a regulated firm of solicitors or an individual solicitor to settle a disciplinary proceedings investigation in full.  Offering to conclude a disciplinary matter by entering an RSA is a regulatory decision made by the SRA, the terms of which are then accepted by the firm or individual solicitor. The SRA may be willing to enter into an RSA when the solicitor or firm is prepared to accept […]

Law firm Leigh Day cleared of Iraq case professional misconduct allegations

On 9thJune, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) cleared London law firm Leigh Day and three of its solicitors of all 20 allegations of professional misconduct over Iraq war murder compensation claims. The trial, instigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) after a three-year investigation,lasted seven weeks and is believed to have cost in the region of £10million. The full judgment and reasoning is expected to be published in August. In summary, after a week of deliberations,the Tribunal found that all […]

The Solicitors Regulation Authority v lawyers behaving badly

Within the space of a month, the High Court has issued conflicting decisions on whether a solicitor’s lack of integrity shows dishonesty. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (the SRA) is reported to be considering an appeal of the latest case,which would give the Court of Appeal a welcome opportunity to clarify the inter-relationship of dishonesty and integrity. The case of Malins v SRA [2017] EWHC 835 (Admin) involved a solicitor struck off in April 2016 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (the […]

Regulatory requirements of a client care policy

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Handbook (the Handbook) sets out all the SRA’s regulatory requirements on solicitors.  It is updated regularly, version 18 having been published on 1 November 2016.  The Handbook outlines the ethical standards expected of solicitors and the outcomes that the SRA requires solicitors to achieve in relation to client care. The Code The SRA Code of Conduct (the Code)is an outcomes-focused regulation.  It sets out positive outcomes which, when achieved, will benefit and protect clients.  The […]

Restoration to the Solicitors Roll – an interview with Jonathan Goodwin

Anyone wishing to apply for restoration to the Roll of Solicitors needs to carefully consider their chance of success, preferably with the help of someone who understands the challenges involved.  Jonathan Goodwin is such a person.  Having spent many years prosecuting solicitors who fell foul of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), he now defends professionals who are facing disciplinary action from professional bodies. Jonathan kindly sat down with us to talk about why a solicitor can be struck off from […]

How Professional Service Providers Can Protect Their Businesses From Money Laundering

Last month in an interview with The Guardian, the head of the National Crime Agency, David Little said UK authorities were struggling to prevent vast sums of dirty money entering the country.  “The amount of Russian money coming into the UK is a concern”, he said. “One, because of the volume. Two, we don’t know where it is coming from. We don’t have enough cooperation [from the Russian side] to establish that. They won’t tell us whether it comes from […]

Should the SRA be Police, Judge and Jury?

Currently, solicitors who face allegations made against them are subject to investigation and sanction by  the  Solicitors Regulation  Authority (“SRA”).   The SRA can rebuke  solicitors  and fine them up to £2,000.00. In more serious cases justifying a more severe sanction the case must be referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (“SDT”). The SDT is an independent body, and cases are heard by two solicitors and a lay person.  There is a right of appeal to the High Court. In a […]

Staying on the Right-Side of the Data Protection Act 1998

This month, a senior barrister was fined £1,000 when highly sensitive client information relating to family court proceedings was accidentally uploaded online, becoming easily accessible to the public via search engines. The Information Commissioner’s Office stated that six of the files contained ‘confidential and highly sensitive’ information relating to people who were involved in proceedings in the Court of Protection and the Family Court. Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO told the Law Society Gazette: “People put their […]