Are you facing SRA intervention?
The SRA has the statutory power to intervene into a solicitor’s practice. The powers may be exercised in relation to an individual solicitor, a number of solicitors together, or recognised body or a licensed body. Intervention powers are set out in Schedule 1 of the Solicitors Act 1974.
An intervention is arguably the most powerful weapon available to the SRA and will effectively destroy the solicitor’s practice.
Where the intervention powers are exercised based on certain grounds, such as reason to suspect dishonesty or breach of rules, the solicitors practising certificate will be suspended. The draconian effect of an intervention is justified on the basis of the risk of allowing the practice to continue would otherwise represent.
“Anyone who has been the subject of disciplinary action by a regulator, and in my case the Solicitors Regulation Authority, will know that the impact extends way beyond your working life. It significantly impacts your personal and family life, affecting your mental wellbeing in the process.
Who you chose to advise and represent you is one of the most important decisions you can make.
In my case, after initially representing myself, I realised that this is not an area of law where a practitioner should go it alone, I therefore sought advice from a barrister and solicitor who I understood to be very experienced in this area. Not only was I advised incorrectly, as it subsequently transpired, but they also seemed to have very little regard for the impact the investigation was having on me.
Something did not feel right and after yet another period of despair, I came across Jonathan’s details online. It is no exaggeration to say that telephoning Jonathan was the best decision I made. When I called, I was immediately put through to Jonathan’s assistant who informed me that Jonathan was engaged in a tribunal hearing and would come back to me as soon as possible. Jonathan returned my call during a short adjournment, and from that moment on, I knew I’d found the right person. Jonathan came back to me as quickly as possible because he cares and fully appreciates the impact regulatory investigations can have. It was the first time in a long time that I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.
Within the space of a week, after providing Jonthan with everything he needed, Jonathan discussed the case in detail with me, providing clear and detailed advice on my case and the disciplinary process. He put me at ease and his expertise was, simply put, outstanding. The advice he gave on the likely outcome of my case, was spot on. Jonathan is so much more than what I consider to be an unrivalled expert in his field, he is a person who genuinely cares for his clients. Jonathan “had my back” and at the same time as showing compassion and understanding on a personal level, he remained determined and committed to achieving the best possible outcome in my case. Jonathan did exactly that.
In summary, I cannot recommend Jonathan Goodwin highly enough. It is no exaggeration to say that he was instrumental in getting me through one of the worst experiences of my life”
Grounds For SRA Intervention
The grounds for intervention are in summary;
- the SRA has reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of a solicitor or his employee in connection with his practice or former practice;
- undue delay, or suspicion of dishonesty, on the part of the personal representative or a deceased sole practitioner;
- that the solicitor has failed to comply with rules relating to professional practice, conduct and discipline, accounts rules and trust accounts rules or professional indemnity;
- that a solicitor has been made bankrupt or come to an arrangement with creditors;
- a solicitor has been committed to prison in any civil or criminal proceedings;
- the SRA is satisfied that a sole practitioner is incapacitated by age, illness, injury or accident, to such an extent as to be unable to run his practice;
- a solicitor lacks capacity;
- the solicitor’s name has been removed from or struck off the roll or a solicitor has been suspended from practice;
- that a solicitor has abandoned his practice;
- that the solicitor is a sole practitioner who has acted as such within the period of 18 months from a previous intervention on the basis of reason to suspect dishonesty;
- the SRA is satisfied that the person has acted as a solicitor at a time when he did not have a practising certificate in force;
- the solicitor has failed to comply with practising certificate conditions requiring him only to act as a solicitor in approved employment, approved partnership, or as an approved manager of a recognised body, or in any specified combination of those;
- that the SRA is satisfied that it is necessary to intervene in relation to a solicitor to protect the interests of clients of the solicitor or his firm, or to protect the interests of the beneficiaries of any trust of which the solicitor is or was a trustee.
The intervention powers are directed to securing possession of practice documents and money.
Challenging A SRA Intervention
If the SRA intervenes there is a statutory time period of 8 days to challenge the intervention in the High Court. The time limit is strict. The High Court may order withdrawal of the SRA’s notices in relation to both money and documents. The Court may make such order as it thinks fit.
In determining whether the intervention notice should be withdrawn the Court must weight the risk of reinstating the solicitor to his practice against potentially disastrous consequences to the solicitor if the intervention continues.
Of key importance will be the risk of withdrawal to clients and the public that the Court identifies from the evidence. A suspicion of dishonesty will always be considered a high level of risk, even if it is of a historic nature or shown to be limited to confined areas of practice.
The reality following an intervention by the SRA is that it is extremely difficult, if not all but impossible to successfully challenge an intervention.
Advice should be taken at the earliest possible stage.
Irrespective of whether a solicitor challenges an intervention, the solicitor’s practising certificate will almost invariably be suspended. An application can be made to the SRA for the suspension to be lifted.
The costs incurred as a consequence of an intervention by the SRA can be significant. The costs of the intervention are likely to be incurred by the SRA’s instruction of an appointee referred to as an “intervention agent”.
The consequences of an intervention on a solicitor cannot be overstated.
In addition to the automatic suspension of a practising certificate, the solicitor will lose control of the firm’s bank accounts and documentation. Unless the intervention is quickly reversed by the Court, the solicitor’s practice is lost with the almost inevitable consequence of financial ruin to the solicitor.
In addition, a consequence of an intervention is likely to be the commencement of disciplinary proceedings before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
It remains important for a solicitor facing the disastrous consequences flowing from an intervention to have regard to protecting their ability to practise and seek urgent advice as to their practising certificate and/or any disciplinary proceedings.
Make An Enquiry Now
Alternatively, you can download my free guide below:
“Having had the threat of an SRA investigation hanging over my head for 2 years I must reflect that the calm professionalism and knowledge of Jon has given me comfort and reassurance in a very testing period of my life. Despite being a solicitor of over twenty years I must reflect that I could not have written such well drafted and detailed letters as Jon did. Whilst I hope never to require Jon’s expertise again, I would not hesitate to recommend his services to anyone and everyone. I massive sincere appreciation to you for the well-reasoned method of dealing with such wide reaching investigations and achieving an excellent outcome of no further action”.