SRA enforcement strategy

1.1 Introduction

Our approach to enforcement is guided by our public interest purpose.

Our May 2014 policy statement (updated in November 2015) sets out our approach to regulation in order to meet the regulatory objectives and in particular, our public interest purpose.

It is important we regulate in a way that helps maintain and build public trust and confidence in solicitors. That means protecting consumers, setting and enforcing high professional standards, and supporting access to affordable legal services, the rule of law and the administration of justice.

As well as making sure solicitors are competent, we want to promote a culture where ethical values and behaviours are embedded.

Our SRA Principles and Codes of Conduct aim to drive high professional standards. Through them we seek to give a clear message to the public, regulated individuals and firms about what regulation stands for and what a competent and an ethical legal profession looks like.

We work in the public interest, protecting consumers, setting and enforcing high professional standards, and supporting access to affordable legal services, the rule of law and the administration of justice.

Our regulation therefore seeks to:

  • ensure a strong, competitive, and highly effective legal market
  • ensure a focus on quality and client care
  • promote a culture in which ethical values and behaviours are embedded.

Our codes provide a benchmark which solicitors1 and firms are expected to meet. In doing so, we will not second guess the approach they take or the way in which they choose to comply. We do, however, require all those we regulate to be familiar with our standards, explanatory guidance, and the law and regulation governing their work, and to be able to explain and justify their decisions and actions.

We have a number of regulatory tools at our disposal to support compliance. These include:

  • conducting thematic reviews of areas of risk
  • publishing a risk outlook highlighting our priority risks
  • providing advice and support through our Professional Ethics helpline and a range of toolkits and guidance
  • SRA Innovate, a service which helps legal services providers to develop their business in new ways.

However, the public and the profession have a right to expect that wrongdoing will be met by robust and proportionate sanctions, and that we as a regulator will enforce our standards or requirements evenly, consistently and fairly. We need to be accountable for our actions and to demonstrate that we will act fairly and proportionately.

This strategy explains how we use our enforcement powers, where there are concerns about failure to meet our standards or requirements. The strategy also provides clarity for the public, and for regulated individuals and firms, about what we expect of those we regulate.

All of our decision-makers are required to exercise their judgment on the facts of each case, on the basis of the guidance set out in this document and our suite of decision-making guidance, which also explains our approach to publishing our regulatory decisions.

Open all
  1. Solicitor includes RELs and RFLs where the context permits.
  2. 7.12 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs
  3. 7.5 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs; and 3.11 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Firms
  4. 7.9 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs; and 3.12 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Firms
  5. "Lawyers … have a duty to their clients, but they may not win by whatever means". Lord Hoffman, Arthur J S Hall –v- Simons [2002] 1 AC.
  6. Bolton –v- The Law Society [1993] EWCA Civ 32, para 15
  7. Section 1(3)(e) Legal Services Act 2007
  8. Bolton –v- The Law Society [1993] EWCA Civ 32, para 13
  9. see Recognising and Responding to consumer vulnerability, Legal Services Consumer Panel, October 2014
  10. see Designing Ethics Indicators for Legal Services Provision, Richard Moorhead et al, UCL Centre for Ethics and Law
  11. In the case of Pitt and Tyas v GPhC [April 2017] the court held that a Regulator could regulate the behaviour of a professional in to both their professional and private life.
  12. SDT refers to this as a reprimand
  13. SDT refers to this as a Restriction Order