Being subject to a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) investigation and/or Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) appearance has the potential to ruin promising careers and impeccable personal and professional reputations. As a highly-experienced, commercially astute barrister, I have successfully defended Solicitors accused of crimes such as mortgage fraud and challenging rulings via Judicial Review.
SRA and SDT Advice and Defence for Solicitors
I am a formidable advocate when it comes to defending Solicitors in investigations and/or proceedings, ensuring I am by your side advising you and protecting your interests from the very beginning of the process. I have an in-depth understanding of the SRA’s powers and limitations on those powers. My passion is supporting clients throughout an investigation, and either negating it through strongly written submissions or gaining a positive outcome in the Tribunal.
Knowing the law is only part of the equation when it comes to advising and representing professionals against investigations or allegations from regulatory bodies. Tactical nous and understanding the regulator’s motivations often result in matters being concluded swiftly and quietly. I have a strong track record of achieving this outcome for clients.
“No-nonsense, straight to the point and very professional”
What happens in an SRA investigation?
The SRA has wide-ranging powers that it uses to investigate solicitors; it may:
- Instruct a Forensic Investigator to conduct an investigation, who will then prepare a report
- Require you to attend a formal recorded interview
- Send you an Explanation with Warnings letter, to which you must respond within 14 calendar days
The case will ultimately be referred to an Adjudicator or Adjudication Panel, who will decide whether to close the case, issue a penalty, or refer the case to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for determination at a hearing.
How should I respond to the SRA?
The early stage of an SRA investigation is the most crucial period when the SRA will form a view as to what has gone wrong and who is responsible. A pro-active and well-judged response by a Solicitor or law firm subject to the investigation can enable the SRA to understand that the matter may be less serious than they initially considered. The SRA needs to have your side of the story explained in a way that addresses their concerns. If things have gone wrong, it can often help to explain what you are doing to put it right and make sure it will never happen again. It is at this stage advice from a barrister experienced in SRA investigations and prosecutions can make all the difference. It is imperative to seek my advice before providing any response to the SRA, so I can advise you on the best course to take to protect your best interests.
What is a Regulatory Settlement Agreement (RSA)?
Some allegations are suitable for conclusion by way of a Regulatory Settlement Agreement (RSA), in lieu of a hearing before the SDT. RSAs are normally only available before the SRA decides to refer the case to the SDT. The Solicitor will usually need to accept that there has been a breach of the rules and for that reason, discussions about RSAs are held on a without prejudice basis.
I can assist you and/or your law firm with negotiating the possibility and final terms of an RSA agreement in order to bring the investigation to a close.
Is an Agreed Outcome available to me?
After the SRA has certified that there is a case to answer based on the Rule 5 Statement and accompanying evidence, it may still be possible to conclude the case without a hearing, by way of an Agreed Outcome.
An Agreed Outcome requires the Solicitor to make admissions as well as to agree on the sanction proposed by the SRA. Agreed Outcomes require the approval of the SDT; the terms must be realistic as the SDT may refuse to agree them. This process can provide solicitors or firms certainty as to the outcome and reduce costs.
What powers does the SRA have to request material and information from me when I am under investigation?
Under Outcome 9 of the SRA Code of Conduct, the SRA Accounts Rule and section 44B of the Solicitors Act 1974 (as amended), the SRA has far-reaching powers to compel a solicitor under investigation (and others) to provide relevant information and documents as well as explanations in respect of such information or documents.
Why instruct me to advise and represent you in SRA and SDT investigations/proceedings?
I fully appreciate the stress and worry which accompanies an SRA investigation and/or SDT proceedings. I can advise and represent you in all aspects of such actions, including:
- advising in respect of any Forensic Investigation undertaken
- provision of advice and representation at any recorded interviews
- responding to the allegations against you
- assisting with disclosure
- advising and assisting with alternative disposals to a hearing (RSAs and Agreed Outcomes)
- gathering evidence and preparing your case
- presenting your case to the SDT
- advising and assisting with any appeal necessary
Like you, I share a passion for the legal profession and a determination to see justice done and to support clients and their families during difficult times. With a strong track record of successful defence, you can be confident that by instructing me directly, you will have the best chance of a positive outcome which protects your career and reputation.