Most qualified Solicitors will regularly receive a copy of the Law Society Gazette and the writer would recommend all do read it with reference to the articles and information contained therein.
Of interest, certainly from a compliance officer perspective, are those decisions which are included with reference to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (‘SDT’).
With the practice certificate renewals being undertaken not that long ago the information relating to the SRA fee policy 2016/2017 is available on the SRA website: http://www.sra.org.uk/mysra/fees/fee-policy-2016-2017.page
Scrolling down the webpage the practising fee income split by expenditure is included and you can see that 3% of the funds raised by practising certificate fees are represented by the SDT.
Anyone undertaking a compliance role is normally involved in some form of internal training be it refreshing the knowledge of qualified staff, induction of new starters or education of those who are perhaps not qualified and have no prior knowledge of the SRA Handbook.
As is currently published on the SRA website we have 10 SRA principles at the moment:
1. uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice;
2. act with integrity;
3. not allow your independence to be compromised;
4. act in the best interests of each client;
5. provide a proper standard of service to your clients;
6. behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services;
7. comply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner;
8. run your business or carry out your role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles;
9. run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity; and
10. protect client money and assets.
Any training relating to the above with reference to outcomes focussed regulation (i.e. Outcomes and Indicative Behaviours) can only ever be bolstered by real examples akin to common law authority by analogy.
From reviewing the 9th January 2017 and 16th January 2017 editions of the Law Society Gazette there were 12 applications published resulting in 11 individuals being struck off the roll of Solicitors. The admission years are varied and represent a broad spectrum of qualified individuals:
8. 2008 (x3)
To view the list as it stands above covering the number of decades it does would suggest that the individuals concerned ought to have been alive to the requirements of the code by which they were governed by virtue of their post qualification experience.
What is telling about this is that no matter how qualified and/ or experienced a Solicitor is there is always room for further education / training and furthermore the need for compliance officers to review internal processes and adherence to the same on a regular basis, no matter who might come under scrutiny.
The above examples involve the following terminology by way of examples:
•‘…deliberate and conscious actions to improperly utilise client money for the benefit of the firm…’
•‘…the reputation of the profession had been significantly damaged by the respondent’s actions…'
•‘…the respondent admitted allegations… on the basis that he had acted dishonestly…’
•‘…the case involved dishonesty and lack of integrity of a very substantial nature…’
The above include incredibly serious terminology and compliance education internally should include these unfortunate examples to show how serious compliance is and the sanctions which can be imposed at the higher end of the spectrum in terms of misconduct.
As stated within my blog from 11.05.2016 a Solicitor can be ‘…trusted to the ends of the Earth…’ and it is for this reason the principles are important in addition to the more prescriptive outcomes and indicative behaviours found within the code of conduct.
Solicitor’s education involves the study of common law and this does not end after graduation and is an ongoing requirement as part of continuing professional development. In the same way many lawyers review common law decisions on legal topics particular to their specialism they should not lose sight of the backbone of what governs our conduct as solicitors and officers of the Court.
Written by Nicholas J. Browne - Solicitor and Associate
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