Last updated June 2011
- Those regulated by the SRA have a duty to uphold high standards of professional behaviour and to comply with regulatory requirements. The Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 sets out mandatory rules and includes the framework of principles, guidance and values within which the SRA expects those regulated to operate. The Code of Conduct is available on the SRA website to anyone who wants to see it.
- The SRA Board authorises Adjudicators and other individual decision-makers within the SRA ("decision-makers") to exercise certain powers in order to ensure
Throughout, the SRA seeks to demonstrate that it is a fair regulator and that decisions are made without unlawful discrimination.
- the public is adequately protected,
- consumers have confidence in the profession,
- compliance with professional obligations, and
- those providing legal services are fit and proper people to continue in practice.
- These guidelines apply to decisions made by the SRA, including
- to resolve a non-compliance with a regulatory requirement or a failure to comply with the Code of Conduct;
- to grant or refuse a Waiver or recognition;
- to determine admission, or entry, or an application under any Law Society Regulations;
- to grant or refuse an application for a practising certificate, or registration;
- to impose conditions on practising certificates, or an registration;
- to intervene into a frim or an individual's practice;
- to determine an application for a grant from the Compensation Fund;
- to determine beneficial entitlement, and related decisions, to money held by the SRA on statutory trust following intervention into a practice;
- to impose a sanction, such as a rebuke, a formal warning as to future conduct, or a fine;
- to determine an appeal in the SRA against an SRA decision, where a right of appeal exists.
- When dealing with a case, decision-makers may be involved in making decisions in one or more of the above categories.
- Decisions to authorise the commencement of proceedings before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) are not adjudications and make no findings of fact. They are in the nature of a "decision to prosecute" and as such will normally be made by staff in the SRA Legal Directorate on the basis of their assessment of the evidential and public interest tests. Paragraph 10 and paragraph 11 of these guidelines do not apply to such decisions because the allegations against a firm or individual will be determined by the SDT in due course.
Relationship between principles, guidelines and criteria
- The SRA Board has adopted 11 principles to provide a foundation for fairness in its decision making. Principle 1 requires that decisions should be based on the application of guidelines or criteria, which should be (a) fair to all individuals and groups regardless of any of the protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 20101, (b) published and transparent, and (c) applied consistently. Criteria have also been developed which are specific to the various categories and types of decisions made. From time to time, the SRA will also publish general policies which may be relevant to decision making, and these are reflected in the criteria. Finally, all decision-makers are trained and supported to ensure that they are competent to make decisions in accordance with SRA requirements.
- All decision-makers are expected to make decisions and exercise delegated powers in accordance with the 11 principles, and by applying these guidelines. Decision making should not unfairly and adversely impact on any particular groups within the profession. The SRA will therefore regularly monitor the quality, consistency and fairness of decisions made and will also review the effectiveness of processes and procedures put in place to support decision making.
Guidelines on delegating powers: Who is authorised to make decisions?
- All decision-makers are appointed and authorised to exercise delegated powers by the SRA Board. The Board does not make decisions in individual cases.
- The Board decides which members or categories of staff may make decisions and exercise delegated powers. The Board may also decide to delegate powers to groups of staff, but on the basis that individual members of staff will only be authorised to exercise those powers when managers are confident that the staff have the necessary skills and experience. In deciding upon delegations, criteria to be applied by the Board include
- the skill, experience and competence required, including an awareness and understanding of the principles of equality and diversity in relation to decision making;
- the potential severity of an outcome and impact on the solicitor's right to practise;
- whether the power would allow the imposition of a sanction against a firm or individual;
- provision for an appeal against a decision;
- the existence of robust arrangements under which managers are responsible for ensuring the quality of the decisions made by decision makers.
- The SRA Panel of Adjudicators is appointed by the SRA Board. The Panel consists of solicitor and lay members, who may be appointed on a full, or part-time basis. Members may make a decision alone, or as part of a Committee of the Panel. Generally, they will deal with appeals or with matters at first instance which are exceptionally judged to be unsuitable for staff members to deal with, such as where lay involvement would be helpful (see guidelines at paragraph 9).
- Decision-makers will provide reasons. The detail provided in the reasons is likely to be dependent on the complexity of the case and proportionate to the impact of the decision upon the firm or individual, taking into account whether it is part of a wider process within which detailed reasons will be provided at final decision stage. Decisions will normally
- identify the regulatory issue or alleged misconduct with reference to the appropriate provision(s) of the Code of Conduct;
- set out the decision-maker's finding, on the basis of an assessment of the facts and the sufficiency of the evidence;
- set out reasons for determining or imposing an outcome, including what criteria, or policies have been applied, and what mitigating or aggravating factors were taken into account, as appropriate.
- The decision-maker exercises judgement in deciding upon the appropriate outcome or action. The decision-maker must be satisfied that the action taken is proportionate to the individual circumstances of the case and of the need to protect public confidence in the profession and the administration of justice.
Equality and diversity
- The SRA is committed to operating fairly towards all individuals and groups, regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
Recording decisions, publication and public access
- All decisions, with reasons, are recorded, and must be notified in writing to the firm of individual concerned. Those who have have reported misconduct may be notified of the outcome where appropriate.
- After extensive consultation, the SRA has adopted a publication policy; and some decisions after 1 January 2008 may be published, including on this website (see Solicitor record check). Decisions will generally only be published after any appeal has been dealt with.
1. The protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act 2010 are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.