The SRA has powers to supervise and investigate those they regulate. In the first instance, the SRA encourages firms to assess and deal with their own risks.
An investigation may be commenced by an event within the firm, such as a report of misconduct, or financial difficulties resulting in a “self report” or complaint by a client or other party.
The SRA may engage with the firm over the telephone, in correspondence or by visit.
“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”
Alternatively, you can download my free guide below:
The SRA’s published guidelines entitled “Criteria to determine the focus of an investigation” sets out how the SRA approaches issues of misconduct and rule breaches and deals with some of the issues that arise as a consequence. It is good guide to the SRA’s general approach to enforcement.
Factors likely to lead to investigation by the SRA are:
- intentional, reckless or seriously incompetent conduct;
- abuse of a position of authority or trust;
- other serious misconduct;
- repeated misconduct in the context of the individual’s history;
- criminal convictions or findings of other Regulators;
- failing to comply with regulatory requirements;
- breaches to the Solicitors Accounts Rules;
- conduct outside of practice impacting on the individual’s integrity;
- a matter of direct public interest.
The SRA has statutory powers to require individuals and firms to provide information and co-operate. A failure to cooperate or provide information when requested, may form the basis of discrete allegations to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (“SDT”).
Responding To The SRA
The SRA give the person the subject of investigation the opportunity to provide an explanation, with a warning that a failure to reply may in itself lead to disciplinary action and that the reply and other information provided may be used by the SRA for regulatory purposes, including as evidence in any investigation, decision or proceedings commenced before the SDT. This letter is referred to as an ‘Explanation with Warnings’ (“EWW”) letter.
This is a crucial part of the investigation and disciplinary process.
An explanation or any other information must be provided within a time period specified by the SRA which is required to be no less than 14 calendar days from the request. If no explanation is offered the SRA may proceed to a decision without it.
It is our strong advice that you should consult with us before responding to the SRA. Failure to do so may have a detrimental impact on the outcome.
The SRA is entitled to withhold the reason for an investigation if it considers that there is a risk disclosure could result in a breach of confidentiality or otherwise prejudice an investigation or other regulatory action.
It is important to note that the investigation is not limited to matters falling within the scope of the explanation.
Notice may be provided to the solicitor of a Forensic Investigation visit by the SRA.
A Forensic Investigation is never random and will be generated as a result of specific concerns.
Whilst there is an obligation on solicitors to deal with the SRA in an open, prompt and co-operative way there may be circumstances in which there is need for proper consideration or advice, such that a solicitor can request, in appropriate circumstances, clarification of requests by seeking them in writing.
The investigation will encompass consideration of the firm’s accounts, office systems and business arrangements together with client files being reviewed and requests being made for further information and explanation as matters arise.
The investigation will conclude with a final interview. The interview is not under caution, and there is no obligation to give a caution, as the matter is not a criminal investigation. However, the interview will be a summary of all matters identified as causing concern and can be challenging and, on occasion, potentially hostile in terms of the style of questioning.
Admissions that Rules have been broken may be expressly requested.
The interview is ordinarily recorded. Following the interview the investigation officer will prepare a Report which will subsequently be disclosed to the solicitor for comment and explanation.
If you are asked to attend an interview we can help. It is easier for me, as an experienced and objective solicitor to raise concern and/or prevent the investigator from continually asking confrontational or unfair questions. It is often the case that unrepresented solicitors compromise their position during interview if not represented at this stage.
The Report stage
Prior to making a disciplinary decision the SRA will draft a report for disclosure to the solicitor under investigation.
The SRA Regulatory and Disciplinary Rules 2019 sets out the basic framework within which an investigation will be conducted.
The Report produced and submitted to the person under investigation will set out and summarise the allegations, explain the supporting facts and evidence, and attach any documentary evidence relied upon by the SRA.
The Report may recommend an outcome or a particular cause of action to include;
- no further action;
- imposition of an internal penalty within the SRA powers,
- a referral of proceedings to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
I have significant experience in preparing responses to the SRA and it is essential that legal advice be obtained at the earliest possible stage of an investigation.
Make An Enquiry Now
“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”.