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Disciplinary Developments – A general overview

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By Clare Hughes-Williams


Published 24 November 2022


Most solicitors would probably agree that facing an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”) is one of the worst things that they have had to do during their career.

The SRA investigated around 1800 matters last year. Some of these investigations will have arisen as a result of complaints from members of the public, some as a result of self-reports made by solicitors or their firms and some as a result of so called  “thematic reviews” conducted by the SRA to ensure compliance in areas that they consider of particular importance. These areas include for example Anti-Money Laundering and most recently Strategic Litigation against Public Participation or “SLAPPs”  as it has become known.

Solicitors may draw some comfort from the fact that only 100 of the 1800 cases were referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (“SDT”) with the SRA sanctioning a further 268.

The statistics will do nothing to allay the concerns of a solicitor who receives a letter from the Regulator raising conduct issues not least because of the long drawn out nature of the investigations.

Many solicitors wait over a year to be told the outcome of an investigation and whilst the SRA sets short timescales for the solicitor they may take months to respond often missing their own self-imposed deadlines.

It should also be noted that the SRA’s fining powers have increased and it can now impose fines of up to £25,000. Whilst this means that many more cases will now be dealt with and resolved without the need for a referral to the SDT it also means that solicitors will have to continue to deal with an in-house investigator at the SRA who in many cases will be slow to respond and will often have no experience of the area of law under scrutiny.

It is undoubtedly a stressful process but in our experience engagement in this process by means of detailed responses to the SRA’s questions with documents to support those responses and discussions with the investigator can significantly improve the outcome even if it does not expedite the outcome.