The legal profession is strictly regulated, with all solicitors required to follow a stringent code of conduct.
In England and Wales, this regulatory function is fulfilled by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which enforces these high standards of conduct and takes action when risks are apparent. The SRA's responsibilities extend to acting in the public interest to investigate and potentially take action when allegations are made that solicitors or firms have breached the SRA's principles. If you are a practising solicitor and have found yourself subject to an investigation regarding your conduct, it is vitally important that you seek legal representation at the earliest stage of any proceedings.
The Regulatory and Compliance Solicitors at Wilford Smith can provide you with the skills, knowledge and expertise required to conduct a robust defence to any allegations made against you. Cases of professional misconduct and breaches of professional rules are held before disciplinary tribunals, which have the power to strike solicitors off the Roll, suspend them for particular or indefinite periods, issue unlimited fines and restrict a solicitor’s right to carry out legal aid work. With such serious consequences for those found guilty of misconduct, getting the right legal advice is key to protecting your livelihood and professional reputation. Contact our Regulatory and Compliance Team today to find out how we can help.
When will the SRA carry out an investigation?
An investigation by the SRA may be commenced in a number of circumstances. This may be as a consequence of an event occurring within a firm, such as a reported incidence of misconduct, as a result of financial difficulties which give rise to a “self-report”, or following a complaint being made by a client or a third party. The SRA has published guidelines that detail the criteria on which an investigation may be undertaken. Factors that are likely to result in an investigation include:
- abuse of a position of trust;
- conduct which is intentional, reckless or seriously incompetent;
- serious misconduct;
- repeated misconduct on the part of a solicitor;
- a criminal conviction of findings made by other regulators;
- breaches of the Solicitors Accounts Rules;
- failure to comply with regulatory requirements;
- conduct taking place outwith a solicitor’s practice which impacts negatively on their integrity; and
- a matter that is of direct public interest.
If you are subject to an investigation by the SRA, you will have the opportunity to respond to any allegations made against you and to offer an explanation of your conduct. The SRA is entitled to ask for further information if it believes this to be appropriate. Investigations will conclude with a final interview at which all the matters giving the investigator cause for concern will be raised, with this interview being recorded and the solicitor potentially being asked to make an admission that the rules have been broken. Following this, a report will be drafted which may recommend that no further action is taken, an internal penalty be imposed, or that the matter be referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
What sanctions can be imposed by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT)?
The SDT has a wide discretion when it comes to imposing sanctions on solicitors who have been found guilty of misconduct, and it is only required to provide adequate reasons for its decisions. The tribunal will look at the seriousness of the misconduct, taking into account the respondent's level of culpability, the harm caused by the misconduct and the existence of any aggravating or mitigating factors. On this basis, the tribunal will decide whether the respondent should be subject to reprimand, a fine, an order restricting their practise, suspension from the Roll of Solicitors, or whether they should be struck off the Roll completely.
Expert SRA Investigation Defence Advice and Representation in England and Wales
Wilford Smith’s Regulatory and Compliance Solicitors, with many years of experience advising clients in relation to investigations by the SRA, are well placed to provide you with the guidance you need throughout an investigation. As solicitors ourselves, we have in-depth knowledge of the legal profession and the standards expected of lawyers, as well as a profound understanding of the anxiety and stress you may feel if you are under investigation for professional misconduct. We are committed to providing you with robust advice and representation in order to achieve the best possible outcome to any investigation.
Our Regulatory and Compliance Solicitors are based in Sheffield and London and serve clients throughout England and Wales. Contact us today on 01709 828 044 to find out how we can help.