Upholding Professional Standards 2017/18




Our Upholding Professional Standards report sets out information about how complaints are handled, how we conduct investigations, and how we decide whether and what sort of regulatory action is necessary.

The report includes statistics and commentary on the types of matters we dealt with during the period November 2017 to October 2018. It also includes case studies of action taken and covers developing trends such as sexual harassment and the use of NDAs, money laundering and dubious investment schemes.

Publication of the report is part of our ongoing drive for transparency and openness. It follows the publication earlier this year of our new Enforcement Strategy and associated ‘topic guides’, which summarise the main mitigating and aggravating factors taken into account when considering possible action across a number of common areas.

About us

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales.

We work to protect members of the public and support the rule of law and the administration of justice. We do this by overseeing all education and training requirements necessary to practise as a solicitor, licensing individuals and firms to practise, setting the standards of the profession and regulating and enforcing compliance against these standards.

We are the largest regulator of legal services in England and Wales, covering around 80 percent of the regulated market. We oversee some 192,000 solicitors and more than 10,400 law firms.

Foreword

A word from our chair

The standards we set are critical to establishing and maintaining public confidence in the rule of law, the administration of justice and, of course, solicitors' professional practice. Standards like integrity, confidentiality, independence and acting in the best interests of clients are what people expect of solicitors and what we try to assure. In this new report, we set out how we uphold these standards through our enforcement activity.

Most solicitors and law firms do a good job, providing high-quality legal services to the public and to businesses within a robust ethical framework. But, when things go wrong, we have to take firm and fair action to make sure that standards are upheld and that the public can continue to place confidence in both individual solicitors and the profession as a whole.

Our primary purpose in taking action is to protect current and future users of legal services, and we will pursue the most effective and efficient way to do so. We try to prevent problems by using information from concerns coming into us and by doing research to identify potential issues. We then raise awareness among the profession to try to prevent these issues arising, reducing risks for the public.

Because public protection is our priority, we will often also try to address less serious concerns through working with a firm or solicitor to put things right. But, sometimes, we take more serious action by referring cases to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), which can issue much higher fines for individual solicitors than we can, or even strike them off the roll of solicitors. We don't always win these cases, but even where the outcome is uncertain, we think it is in the public interest that some issues are tested through the SDT and court processes.

Enforcing standards comes at a price – high-quality investigation and action is complex and costly. Our work is funded by the profession, and these costs are ultimately passed onto the public. This is one of the many reasons why we think it is important to be open about our work and its costs – this report is part of that transparency. I hope it provides some insight into what is a very important, but often difficult and challenging, part of our work.

Anna Bradley

Chair of the SRA Board

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  1. The median figure is determined by listing the number of days it took to complete each initial assessment or each investigation in 2017/18 and extracting the number that sat in the middle of that list.