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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

‘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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]