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 standard of proof for cases going through the SDT.
A proposal for lowering the standard of proof in the SDT should concern all members of the profession, especially given the consequences of being found guilty of dishonesty is likely to lead to being struck-off the Roll of Solicitors. And should such an incident occur, it can be very difficult to get reinstated.
What are the consequences of being struck-off the Roll?
If you are struck of the Roll you will be unable to work as a solicitor. If
you wish to be employed by a law firm, the practice will have to write to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and gain permission to take you on. If you have been struck-off for dishonesty offences, it is highly unlikely the SRA will grant permission for you to work at a law firm.
Therefore, any chance of resuming your career rests in being restored to the Roll.
How do I apply to be restored to the Roll of Solicitors?
To be restored to the Roll of Solicitors you will need to apply to the SDT. It is crucial you seek experienced advice before taking such as step.
Restoration will only take place if there are exceptional circumstances and there is a risk of an adverse costs order if the application fails. Although the stakes are high, a solicitor who specialises in matters relating to the SRA and SDT will quickly let you know if your case has a prospect of success. If it does, then an application to the SDT for restoration needs to be prepared with great care and skill.
What will the SDT take into account when hearing the application?
The classic statement by Sir Thomas Bingham MR in Bolton v The Law Society  1WLR 512 is still considered as guidance on matters concerning restoration to the Roll of Solicitors:
“It often happens that a solicitor appearing before the Tribunal can adduce a wealth of glowing tributes from his professional brethren. He can often show that for him and his family the consequences of striking off or suspension would be little short of tragic. Often he will say, convincingly, that he has learnt the lesson and will not offend again. On applying for restoration after striking off all these points may be made, and the former solicitor may also be able to point to real efforts made to re-establish himself and redeem his reputation. All these matters are relevant and should be considered. But none of them touches the essential issue, which is the need to maintain among members of the public a well founded confidence that any solicitor whom they will instruct will be a person of unquestionable integrity, probity and trustworthiness… the reputation of the profession is more important than the fortunes of any individual member.”
Bolton essentially provides a two-stage test. The first hurdle a person must cross if they wish to be restored to the Roll is to show they have been rehabilitated. It normally takes a period of around five years to show this has occurred. The SDT will examine whether you have worked within the profession and have had a flawless. track-record during the period between being struck-off and applying for restoration. The second and more difficult test is will restoring the solicitor to the Roll damage the reputation of the legal profession?
A former solicitor minded to apply for restoration to the Roll should seek specialist advice. The key is to prepare the application diligently, complete with character references, evidence of your rehabilitation and your commitment to the profession.
We have been helping legal professionals with professional disciplinary and regulatory hearings for over 20 years. If you have any questions relating to restoration to the Solicitors Roll, please call us on 0151 909 2380 or complete our Free Online Enquiry and I will soon be in touch.