“Serious Procedural Irregularity” Leads High Court To Overturn Finding of Fundamental Dishonesty

In the recent case of Jenkinson v Robertson [2022] EWHC 791 (QB) on 31st March 2022, the High Court concluded an appeal by Claimant, Mr Andrew Jenkinson, that he had been “fundamentally dishonest” when claiming for personal injury against the Defendant, Mr Gary Robertson. What is particularly notable in this case is the way in which the allegation of fundamental dishonesty was brought up after the close of trial evidence. Here we will look at the facts of the case […]

Law Firm Owner Sanctioned For Telling Client He Could Not Complain To The SRA

In March 2022, we wrote about how former solicitor Elizabeth Nedin deliberately concealed a complaint made by one of her clients and was struck off the Roll of Solicitors as a result. In this article, we will focus on a case in which sole practitioner, Ian Bond, of Bond Joseph, was sanctioned for advising a client that they would be unable to complain to the SRA as this was a condition of a settlement offer. In this case, for a […]

Solicitor Struck Off for Concealing Client’s Complaint

In February 2022, the SDT decided on a matter involving former solicitor, Elizabeth Nedin, who concealed a complaint made by one of her clients. The case should act as a reminder for law firms of the importance of putting in place clear procedures and secure systems for handling complaints. Here we will look at the details of Ms Nedin’s case and the decision reached by the SDT. What were the allegations against the respondent? The SDT heard that the Respondent, […]

New SRA Workplace Environment Guidance

In recent years, there have been numerous cases and reports of law practitioners in the UK who have experienced toxic workplaces, bullying, harassment, intimidation, and pressure to work excessive hours. Back in 2020, Tiernan Brady, the global director of inclusion at Clifford Chance, speaking at the Thomson Reuters “Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law” webinar, made the point that if the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) rules required for problems to be reported ‘to the top’ it risks creating a “wall […]

Will the SRA Increase Its Internal Fining Powers ‘Twelvefold’?

In November 2021, the SRA announced proposals to significantly hike its fining powers in addition to a new ‘fast-track’ system for fixed penalties for lesser breaches of its rules. This is not the first time the SRA has made public its intention to ratchet up fines. In 2013, (updated in 2019), the SRA published a consultation paper entitled, “Proposal to increase the SRA’s internal fining powers”. In that consultation, a number of possible fining ranges were mooted; £10,000, £50,000, or […]

Top Law Firm Receives Record Fine Following Breach of Money Laundering Rules

For many years now, we have been writing about how some UK law firms have struggled to stamp out money laundering and the ever-increasing pressure being imposed by the SRA on law professionals to do so. A recent SRA compliance case involving one of the top law firms in the UK, Mishcon de Reya, reveals that even those with the most resources can find themselves in breach of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations. In this article, we will discuss the recent […]

What To Expect Of The UK Legal Market In 2022

While it is never possible to predict with 100% accuracy what will happen to the UK’s legal market in the coming year, by projecting ahead as much as possible, you can ensure your legal practice is better prepared, come what may. The expected emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic will hopefully mean that law firms that have had to direct their efforts to adapt to a new way of working since March 2020, can now focus more on achieving their longer-term […]

Trainee Solicitor Wrongly Rebuked By The SRA

A recent decision by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) saw a Trainee Solicitor successfully appeal a rebuke by an SRA Adjudicator. What makes the case of Fouracre v SRA significant is that it cited the High Court’s decision in Beckwith v Solicitors Regulation Authority [2020] EWHC 3231 (Admin), where a former law firm partner was cleared of sexual misconduct after the Court concluded there was a ‘qualitative distinction’ between behaviour which affects the individual’s reputation and that which affects the […]

Complaints About Barristers’ Conduct and Inappropriate Use of Social Media Rose in 2020/21

In what should be a wake-up call, in its recent ‘Regulatory Decision-making Annual Report 2020/21’, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) highlighted a considerable rise in the number of complaints being received regarding Barristers. This includes a near doubling of the number of investigations into the inappropriate use of social media. Here we will take a look at what the BSB had to say about complaints regarding Barristers, and in particular, the concern over the misuse of social media. What do […]

Land Registry’s First Digital Only Service

As we come to the end of 2021 and look forward to 2022, there is no doubt that the UK’s legal industry is on the edge of a digital transformation, and this appears to be accelerating. Georgetown Law and the Thomson Reuters Institute stated in their ‘Report on the State of the Legal Market’ for 2021 that the pandemic and other domestic and global factors “may have softened partner resistance to fundamental change enough to create a tipping point in […]

Is The Human Rights Act About To Be Overhauled?

At the recent Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab left little doubt that he has the Human Rights Act 1998 in his sights for reform; he told the conference, “It is absolutely perverse that someone guilty of domestic abuse then claims the right to family life to trump the public’s interest in deporting him from this country. We’ve got to bring an end to that nonsense… Before the next election, we will overhaul the Human Rights Act […]

What Are Unbundled Services And Why Is The SRA Pushing For Them?

In its ongoing strive to modernise the legal sector, the SRA has recently undergone a fresh drive to encourage law firms to offer ‘unbundled services’ with the Regulator unveiling plans for a pilot scheme to look at the benefits. As things stand, the biggest challenge it faces is the lukewarm enthusiasm towards the approach within the legal sector and, specifically, the concern that it may expose legal practitioners to potential breaches of the SRA’s own principles. So what exactly are […]

What Happens When The SRA Investigate Your Firm?

So what should you do if the SRA starts an investigation against you or your firm? If you understand the investigatory process and have well organised files and detailed client and firm accounts, then with the aid of professional support you and your colleagues can manage an SRA investigation in a calm, pragmatic manner. How does the SRA start an investigation? At best, you will receive seven to fourteen days’ notice that the SRA is launching an investigation. If the […]

What to Expect During SDT Proceedings

For any legal professional facing disciplinary proceedings by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), it is important to understand the process and rules they follow. In 2019, to make the SDT rules and procedures clearer, especially for those not familiar with the Tribunal’s practice and process, the Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules were updated. In this article, we will outline what to expect if you are subject to SDT proceedings. The Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules 2019 The Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules 2019 […]

SRA Requests Law Firms Declare Their Compliance with Transparency Rules

On 21 January 2021, in what the SRA referred to as a “clamp down”, they announced they had already disciplined nine law firms for not adhering to rules on transparency. It appears this clamp down is still ongoing as the SRA recently wrote to around 8,000 UK law firms asking them to formally declare they are compliant with the transparency rules. While the declaration process itself is very quick (around ten minutes), these had to be completed by the close […]

Is it Fair to Take Solicitors’ Personal Lives Into Account?

In the digital age, our actions, thoughts, and feelings are there for all to see on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Employers are routinely scouring social media accounts of prospective employers as a part of their screening process. Employers are also actively taking notice of what their staff are up to and checking to see if their actions may bring their firm into disrepute. As a case in point, many will be aware of the […]

How Law Firms Can Improve Their Sustainability

With climate change becoming a more pressing issue for us all, it is likely that customers of the future will choose to work with businesses, including law firms, not just on their professional record but also on their commitment to environmental sustainability. With the 26th UN Climate Change Conference coming up in November 2021 in Glasgow, more and more businesses are embedding climate change considerations into everything they do. In this article, we will take a look at why law […]

Could Law Firms Be Forced To Sign Up To Review Sites?

When reading the Google reviews of many law firms it quickly becomes clear that significant numbers are fake and/or malicious. You can quickly tell this by the number of times law firms have to reply that they ‘do not have a record of [the reviewer] ever being a client’’. It is difficult to delete a negative Google review and the tech giant will not remove it simply because it is unfavourable. Instead, you need to flag that the review is […]

Should Solicitors Have Competence Checks?

Back in November 2016, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) removed the requirement for solicitors to count CPD hours and replaced this with a self-regulatory requirement for legal professionals. They advised legal practitioners to “reflect on the quality of your practice and identify any learning and development needs. You can then address these needs to make sure your knowledge and skills are up to date and that you are competent to practice”. If the Legal Service Board (LSB) gets its way, […]

How Online Dispute Resolution Will Transform Justice

In a recent speech at the London International Disputes Week, Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls (“MR”) stated that online dispute resolution (ODR) was set to transform justice and lawyers must embrace the coming changes. Stating the current system for resolving disputes was “cumbersome and expensive”, the head of civil justice in England and Wales said: “The new generations will demand that justice, like everything else, is delivered at proportionate cost online. ‘Lawyers, judges and arbitrators will need quickly […]

How Accounting Errors Can Result In An SRA Investigation

Under the SRA Accounts Rules, law firms are required to “have systems and controls in place to ensure compliance with these rules [the SRA rules] and the nature of those systems must be appropriate to the nature and volumes of client transactions dealt with and the amount of client money held or received.” Keeping up with the administrative duties generated from running a successful, busy practice is difficult enough at the best of times. However, throw in a global pandemic, […]

Could Working From Home Improve Professionals’ Mental Health ?

A recent Thomson Reuters survey shows that two-thirds of UK lawyers believe working from home has improved their wellbeing. According to the responses, on average, lawyers would prefer to work from home (WFH) two days a week. Lawyers also stated they wanted a 10% average reduction in working hours, and more than a third (34%) are willing to reduce their compensation in exchange for a shorter working week. Like all other pandemics that have gone before it, Covid-19 has made […]

Defending Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Proceedings

If you have been investigated by the SRA and the matter has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) it is imperative that you instruct an experienced SRA and SDT defence solicitor. This is because the SDT can issue significant penalties such as unlimited fines or, in the case of dishonesty offences, strike you off the Roll. In almost all cases, it is best to obtain professional advice during the SRA investigation at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure […]

HMRC To Launch Taskforce To Tackle Covid Fraud

At the beginning of March, Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced in his Spring Budget that £100 million is to be set aside to form a Taxpayer Protection Taskforce. A team of 1,250 HMRC officials will be responsible for investigating and prosecuting those who have unlawfully acquired money under the various Government schemes designed to help businesses get through the pandemic. The Taskforce will focus on schemes such as the Job Retention Scheme (the Furlough Scheme), the Self Employment Income Support Scheme […]

Success Story – We Restore Rehabilitated Solicitor To The Roll

Jonathan Goodwin has been successful in persuading the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) to restore Shadab Ahmed Khan, who was convicted for money laundering offences, to the Roll of Solicitors. Mr Khan was admitted to the Roll in 1997. In 2009, he was convicted of one count of money laundering and two counts of failing to disclose knowledge or suspicion of money laundering. The SDT struck-off Mr Khan in 2011, after he was found to have acted with a lack of […]

How The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) Investigates Complaints

All conveyancing and probate professionals who are regulated by the Council for Licenced Conveyancers (CLC) can be investigated by the body if allegations of misconduct are made. All regulated conveyancers are expected to comply with the CLC’s Regulatory Arrangements which set out not only a Code of Conduct, but an Anti-Money-Laundering & Combating Terrorist Financing Code, Accounts Code, Complaints Code, Conflict of Interest Code, and Equality Code, to name but a few. The CLC divides complaints into three categories: • […]

SRA Begins Action On Firms Not Meeting Transparency Requirements

The SRA has imposed sanctions on four law firms for failing to meet the transparency requirements introduced in 2018. Published decision notices show Manchester firm AWH Legal was fined £2,000, London firm Sal & Co Solicitors was fined £1,000, while Bath firm Renney & Co Solicitors and Bristol practice Bradford & Co were both rebuked. All firms were ordered to pay £300 costs. AWH Legal had not published details of its costs and complaints procedure on its website, as required […]

A Quick Guide To The Architects Registration Board Code Of Conduct

Like all professions, architects are robustly regulated. The Architects Act 1997, section 13 provides that the Architects Registration Board (ARB) must issue a Code setting out the professional standards and conduct expected of a person registered as an architect. This is to protect clients’ interests and ensure the public has confidence in the profession. The latest version of the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice (the Code) came into force on 1 January 2017. The introduction states: “Any […]

How Businesses Have Been Caught Up In Industrial-Scale Furlough Fraud

The Financial Times has called it a “bonfire of taxpayers’ money”. All over the UK, businesses, including law firms, architects, and surveyors have been or are at risk of being exploited by criminals to defraud the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (Furlough Scheme) and Bounce Back Loans Scheme. In July 2020, two people were arrested on suspicion of creating a scam to defraud the Treasury of £500,000. According to the Independent , the main suspect had been recruiting people to set […]

How Will Coronavirus Change Law Firms?

The Coronavirus pandemic has rapidly changed all our lives, both in terms of work and home. The legal profession will, along with other sectors, face enormous challenges and opportunities dealing with the continuing pandemic and as we hopefully move into a post-Covid-19 world in 2021. Homeworking is now accepted One area which has dramatically changed as a consequence of Coronavirus, is the acceptance of homeworking. The pandemic has provided a platform to mitigate employers’ fears that productivity will drop if […]

Proposal To Allow ARB To Test The Competence Of Architects

In November 2020, the Government launched a consultation on plans to amend the Architects Act 1997 (AA 1997) to allow the Architects Registration Board (ARB) to regularly examine architects and remove practitioners that do not meet required standards. This follows the Grenfell Tower tragedy and Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building safety. In her final report, she proposed : “Government and the Architects Registration Board, working with partners, should consider current and future competence levels of those architects on the […]

SRA Demands Law Firms Step Up Money Laundering Checks

Mark Boyle, policy lead on anti-money laundering for the SRA has stated that law firms must learn exactly where their clients’ money is coming from if they want to effectively fight money laundering. The statement was made at the Regulator’s compliance conference. Mr Boyle stated : “The key is knowing who your client is and understanding who your client is and understanding why they have come to you – does it make sense? ‘You really need to be checking how […]

Two Recent Solicitor Dishonesty Cases

There have been several recent cases of dishonesty before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) following Solicitors Regulation Authority investigations (SRA). Below is a summary of two of these decisions and what can be learnt from them. SRA v Williams, 14 September 2020 (date of consideration of Agreed Outcome) In SRA v Williams, the SDT heard that Ms Williams was alleged to have altered a fee note sent from a Chambers to disguise the true date on which she made payment. […]

Bolton Law Firm’s Office Reopens After Being Shut By Local Authority Due to Covid-19 Spike

In early October, a Bolton law firm was able to reopen its premises after undergoing a deep clean and reducing its capacity in communal areas. The recent incident of the law firm’s premises being shut by the local authority is a stark reminder to legal businesses to take Coronavirus health and safety precautions seriously. Environmental officials closed the premises after employees’ family members contacted the authority to inform them that staff members were not being told that other employees had […]

Lawyers, Ethics, and Social Media

Without moving too far into the controversial political sphere, it is safe to say that the current UK Government’s commitment to the Rule of Law is slightly lacking. From the move to prorogue Parliament in 2019 (deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court), to the current Internal Market Bill, it seems laws are seen as an obstruction rather than the glue that holds domestic and international communities together. Unfortunately, solicitors and barristers, especially those who practise in the area of immigration, […]

Correctly Supervising Solicitors Working From Home

Despite the Government’s plea for office workers to return to work provided it is safe to do so, many city workers and their employers have discovered the benefits of working from home. The past five months have shown that many people are more productive, less stressed, and happier overall when they abandon commuting and are encouraged to embrace homeworking. Employers also realise that they can save money by making plans to downsize, or in some cases, quit their central city […]

Legal Services Consumer Panel Suggests Spot Checks On Lawyers

The Legal Services Consumer Panel is concerned that clients have limited means of knowing whether a solicitor is competent and has ensured his or her skills have been updated throughout what can be a long career. A letter from Panel Chair Sarah Chambers, addressed to the Legal Services Board set out the following concerns: “The Panel believes that a lawyer’s initial education and training cannot offer a career-long guarantee of competence. There can be substantive changes in the law, in […]

SRA Issues New Warning Notice in relation to Advising On Investment Schemes

On 17 August 2020, the SRA issued a warning notice stating that solicitors need to be vigilant when it comes to providing advice on investment schemes. The notice is an update on a pre-existing notice, which was first published in June 2017. The notice states, amongst other things, that solicitors must watch out for: “Transferring funds through their client account, without the transactions being connected to any underlying legal work Doing no real legal work and legal fees are being […]

Latest Claims Of Sexual Misconduct In Law Firms

On 12 June 2020, Baker McKenzie’s former London senior partner was fined £55,000 for serious professional misconduct. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found that Gary Senior attempted to embrace and kiss a junior colleague in 2012 and then tried to use his senior position to influence the investigation into the incident. Mr Senior also had to pay £40,000 to cover the Solicitor Regulatory Authority’s (SRA) costs. However, the firm, along with two of its former members, were cleared by the […]

Paralegals Face A Recent Flurry of Disciplinary Action

Under the SRA Standards and Regulations, within the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs, all staff employed within a law firm are subject to those conduct rules. Paralegals can find themselves answering accusations of improper behaviour if they breach the Code. Recently, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) barred three paralegals from the profession in the space of a few days. This demonstrates that the regulator is determined to hold paralegals to account, especially in regards to dishonesty offences. […]

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 […]