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Decision-making criteria

This set of criteria was archived on 5 October 2012 as part of our Transformation Programme.

Practising certificate or registration, decision to impose conditions on

Principles of regulatory decision-making, approved by the SRA Board, provide a set of standards applicable to decisions. The principles are supported by guidelines.

The reasons given by a decision-maker will normally include specific criteria applicable to the decision. SRA Policies relevant to decision-making are reflected in the criteria.

Scope of this document

This document applies to decisions we may take to impose conditions on a practising certificate or registration.

The relevant provisions are:

It applies to decisions:

  • when regulation 3 applies on an application for a practising certificate or for initial registration or renewal of registration; or when a solicitor or REL applies for authorisation as a sole practitioner together with an application for a practising certificate or for initial registration or renewal of registration; or
  • whilst a practising certificate is in force, or during the currency of an REL's initial or renewed registration. This includes where a solicitor or REL makes a separate application for authorisation as a sole practitioner during the course of a practising certificate or renewed registration; or
  • when regulation 6.2 applies to an application by an RFL for initial registration or renewal of registration or during the currency of registration; or
  • following termination of automatic suspension of a practising certificate or registration.

Some conditions restrict a regulated person's ability to practise, and others outline steps to be followed.

Criteria

When imposing conditions on a practising certificate or on an REL's registration, in any circumstances, the decision-maker must do so for one or more of the purposes set out by regulation 6.1(a)-(f).

When imposing conditions on an RFL's registration, in any circumstances, the decision-maker may do so when applying regulation 6.2.

Points of note

Imposing a condition is a regulatory step, a protective measure and is not intended to be punitive.

Any condition imposed depends on the individual's personal circumstances and the reasons which lead us to consider the imposition of conditions. Each case is considered on its facts and conditions imposed may vary from those set out below.

Current practising arrangements, if any, are taken into account. As part of their consideration, the decision-maker may make enquiries of others, for example partners/managers/employer.

It may be that the decision-maker considers a combination of conditions is appropriate. There could be some overlap with the types of conditions.

Time is a relevant factor too: the decision-maker will always consider whether to relax conditions over time (e.g. the length of time passed since the incident or breach occurred). The decision will take into account whether there is still any risk to be addressed by a condition.

There is no definitive list of the types of conditions the SRA can impose on a practising certificate or registration. What follows is therefore not an exhaustive list.

Circumstances where particular conditions may be imposed

Conditions requiring a solicitor, REL or RFL to work only in employment approved by the SRA, include: 

  • convictions,
  • bankruptcy,
  • other serious financial issues;
  • post-intervention,
  • pre-Tribunal hearing,
  • post-Tribunal hearing,
  • following suspension from practice,
  • multiple breaches of the regulatory requirements (when a principal),
  • following a prolonged absence from practice,
  • serious misconduct,
  • failure to comply with other previously imposed conditions.

Conditions requiring a solicitor, REL or RFL to work only in employment or as a partner, director, manager or member of a recognised body approved by the SRA, include: 

  • serious financial issues,  
  • convictions,
  • post intervention,
  • pre-Tribunal hearing,
  • post-Tribunal hearing,
  • following suspension from practice,
  • multiple breaches of the regulatory requirements (when a principal);
  • serious misconduct,
  • failure to comply with other previously imposed conditions.

Where the SRA requires that a solicitor, REL or RFL obtain our approval to be able to work at a particular firm then the following will be taken into account

  • the firm's regulatory history with the SRA,
  • the regulatory history of the those who own the firm and those employed by the firm,
  • the arrangements in place to supervise members of staff,
  • the details of the job description and arrangements for supervision of the individual subject to the condition, and 
  • whether the individual subject to the condition will be responsible for clients money, supervision of other staff.

Applications for approval will be refused if the SRA is not satisfied with the arrangements and/or the firm.

Conditions restricting a solicitor, REL or RFL from working as a recognised sole practitioner, include: 

  • serious financial issues,
  • convictions,
  • post intervention,
  • pre-Tribunal hearing,
  • post-Tribunal hearing,
  • absence from practice,
  • serious misconduct, or
  • poor regulatory history when authorised to practise as a sole practitioner.

Conditions requiring a solicitor, REL or RFL to deliver more frequent accountant's reports, include: 

  • financial difficulties,
  • Individual Voluntary Arrangement/post-bankruptcy issues,
  • history of late/outstanding accountant's reports,
  • issues in relation to compliance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules,
  • referral to the Tribunal for Solicitors Accounts Rules breaches (pre and post Tribunal); or
  • failure to distribute funds.

Conditions requiring a solicitor, REL or RFL to undertake professional training, include: 

  • following a prolonged absence from practice, or 
  • where there is a skills gap as evidenced by complaints and/or regulatory history.

Conditions restricting a solicitor, REL or RFL from being responsible for the training of trainee solicitors, include: 

  • where there have been issues regarding supervision,
  • where there have been issues of poor service/conduct,
  • poor regulatory history.

Conditions restricting a solicitor, REL or RFL's ability to deal with clients money:

  • pre-/post-Tribunal hearing,
  • bankruptcy/Individual Voluntary Arrangement,
  • Solicitors Accounts Rules breaches, or 
  • other financial issues.

Conditions restricting a solicitor, REL or RFL from undertaking certain types of work, include: 

  • convictions,
  • poor regulatory history or complaints in a particular area of work; or
  • pre-/post-Tribunal hearing.

Example

The example below is illustrative and does not set any type of precedent. Each matter is considered on its own facts and merits.

A solicitor of eight years, who having practised as a partner for the last five years, has a three year history of accountants’ reports being qualified and the last one delivered late.

An accounts inspection is undertaken identifying a number of breaches of the Solicitors Accounts Rules, but no indication to suspect dishonesty.

As part of our overall regulatory response we consider whether these issues indicate risks which might need to be addressed in the public interest by imposing conditions on the solicitors practicing certificate.

Conditions may require the solicitor to attend courses related to the Solicitors Accounts Rules and to require that accountants’ reports be delivered more frequently, perhaps every six months.

We will only impose conditions we consider to be reasonable, proportionate and necessary in the interests of the public.