Supporting you through dealings with the SRA
The Kidwells Regulatory team have years of experience in advising and representing solicitors facing SRA investigations. We draw from our experience of defending solicitors before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT.) Additionally, we can provide advice to firms across all sizes ranging from sole practitioners to large corporate firms. From our own personal dealings with the SRA we can clearly understand and empathise with you, supporting and guiding you through the entire process is our priority.
Important things to consider:
- We can assist anyone who works in a solicitor’s firm regarding a variety of issues in relation to legal practice. This includes individual solicitors, law firms, MLRO’s, COLP’s, COFA’s, other qualified lawyers (CILEX) and student/trainee solicitors.
- Our solicitors will always try to advise you on the best steps to take. We will carefully analyse your situation and help you overcome it by choosing solutions tailored to your needs and circumstances. Furthermore, we’ll help you reach the best outcome possible.
Support and guidance with every stage
A Forensic Investigator, sent by the SRA, conducts an investigation at the firm in question. After completion of the investigation they will want to record interviews with solicitors who have a positive obligation to co-operate. This results in the preparation of a Forensic Investigation Report which details alleged breaches of the code and their findings. An SRA case worker will write to the solicitor enclosing the report and set out questions they want answers to. This is known as an ‘Explanation with Warnings’ (EWW) letter.
The investigator can send the letter without attending the firm. However, this does not imply the SRA is dealing with the matter in a less serious manner. It’s still important to get advice promptly. As a crucial part of the disciplinary process, the solicitor can usually have 14 days to prepare a clear and coherent response. This should have consistency with what a solicitor will say if the case reaches the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. It’s important to not disclose ignorance of any SRA regulation or belittle the seriousness of the alleged breach in fear of aggravating the situation. Your response forms the basis of any defence a solicitor has through the investigation and if the matter goes further, the Tribunal.
The SRA case worker refers the case to an SRA Adjudicator/Authorised Officer who will make a decision. It’s rare that no action is taken and sometimes they may provide a letter of advice. Additionally, they may find no case to answer or they can issue an expression of regret regarding the solicitor’s conduct. Furthermore, the caseworker may issue a warning, a rebuke or a serious reprimand, impose a fine of up to £2000 or they may refer the case to a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT.) We can provide advice and guidance through any of these stages.
The SRA will serve on the SDT an originating application. Rule 5 of the Disciplinary Proceedings Rules details allegations and breached regulations and encloses the documentation the SRA relies on. A solicitor member of the SDT reviews the file and certifies whether there is a case to answer. If they believe there is they will serve the papers to the solicitor with directions they must comply with.
Following this, the solicitor needs to serve an answer to the Rule 5 statement. This includes whether they admit or deny the allegations made against them. Our regulatory team can provide you with efficient and effective advice if you find yourself in this situation.
We can help you negotiate with the SRA for a Regulatory Settlement Agreement (RSA) which is an alternative to hearings. It’s a formal written agreement which settles complaints made by the SRA against the solicitor. The SRA may be willing to accept an RSA once the solicitor can accept the breaches they made to the solicitor’s code of conduct or SRA principles and are preparing to put the matter right. It’s difficult to get the SRA to consider this when they have no obligation to. Also, it’s unlikely that the SRA will consider an RSA if it believes the solicitor won’t comply with its terms.
Agreeing to an RSA means the SRA will supervise the firm or solicitor to ensure the solicitors are complying with the terms of the agreement. Further regulation against a solicitor can occur if they breach or fail to cooperate with the agreement terms. An RSA is beneficial because it’s flexible and resolution can be swift. We can advise you on whether an RSA is achievable in relation to your circumstances and how we plan to help you achieve it.
The forensic investigator may give live evidence and provide the SRA with the documentary evidence. The solicitor in question can present their defence and dispute allegations made against them through oral evidence. If they fail to do so it may lead to the Panel drawing an adverse inference.
If the allegations made against a solicitor are true, the panel can make any decisions available to the Adjudicator. They can impose an unlimited fine, suspend the solicitor or strike the solicitor’s name off the Roll. Moreover, the solicitor can mitigate to minimise any sanction imposed by the panel. Our solicitors have experience defending solicitors before the SDT and we will try our best to help you achieve a successful outcome. Furthermore, we can help you appeal a decision within 21 days of the Tribunal’s findings and take the case to the High Court. Our regulatory team understand time is of the essence and immediately assist you in preparing for representation in the High Court.
The SRA makes an application for their costs to be paid by the solicitor even when the allegations have not been proven. Even after an acquittal the Tribunal rarely awards the solicitor their costs. Our knowledgeable team can advise on costs you’re likely to owe and implications this may have on your finances.
Intervention is where the SRA can close down a solicitors practice if they deem it to be in the best interests of the public.This happens when the principals are unable to continue or there have been serious breaches of the Solicitor’s Code of Conduct or the Solicitor Accounts and Rules. The SRA will send an intervening agent to effect the closure of the practice. This is costly so the SRA seek recompense of these costs from all principals of the practice. We can provide you with immediate assistance so we can contact the SRA with a view to avoiding an intervention.
We can advise you on the option to appeal against the SRA’s decision to intervene with the high court. This appeal must be put in place within 8 days of the intervention. Additionally, we can assist you in making representations to the SRA that an intervention is not the appropriate decision. Finally, we can help you to avoid an intervention by the SRA by negotiating a voluntary closure. This is a cheaper alternative which better protects the reputation of the solicitor.
Meet our team
“The legal process, from beginning to end, can be a very daunting experience for anybody. My aim is to provide clear and effective advice and support to my clients, no matter the circumstance or legal issue, in order to reach the best outcome for them”.