SRA consultation: solicitors to be forced to challenge workplace bullies
The SRA has opened a consultation into rule changes on health and wellbeing in the workplace. It runs until 27th May and, arguably, comes not a moment too soon for the profession.
New proposed ruled on bullying
The regulator intends to fundamentally change the conduct rules to “…make it clear that those we regulate must treat colleagues with respect and dignity. And that if they fail to do so, we will take action where necessary to protect the interests of clients and the public”.
The proposed changes include a positive obligation on solicitors to challenge workplace bullies and those who fail to treat others fairly and with respect.
But what are the unintended consequences of such an approach?
SQE exams: the results are in!
It’s been six months since the new SQE route to qualification was launched. How time flies! As a result, we have now entered something of a transitional period, with some aspiring lawyers committed to the GDL/LPC pathway, and others racing down the new SQE route.
Back in November 2021, some 1090 candidates took the plunge, sitting the first ever SQE1 exam. The exam was hosted by over 100 law centres around the world and pass rate of 53% was reported. But brace yourselves, the SRA expect these numbers to surge to around 10,000 candidates per year, once the transitional period comes to an end.
We thought it would be a good time to revisit the new regime, now that the mists have cleared and the wheels are turning. A good time, perhaps, to consider what law firms should be doing (and when) in order to attract new ‘trainees’.
News and Guidance
Law Society Updates
- News: What you need to know about new sanctions on Russia
- Practice Note: Unbundling civil legal services
- Blog: Economic Crime Bill approved by Commons
- News: The importance of complying with Russian financial sanctions – An essential update from the SRA, encompassing sanctions compliance, AML, abusive litigation and terminating client retainers. The regulator will be spot checking firms’ compliance.
- News: Financial sanctions and Russia (update)
- Guidance: Conduct in disputes – A timely reminder about the regulatory position on abusive litigation, aimed squarely at strategic lawsuits against public participation (‘SLAPP’).
- Guidance: Separate business guidance – If you operate other non-SRA regulated businesses, this is important guidance on your duties.
- Consultation: Wellbeing consultation – See article above for more information.
- Consultation: Restoring the annual keeping of the roll exercise – SRA wants to go back to levying an annual charge (£30-40) on non-practising solicitors. This consultation runs to 20 May 2022.
Thanks to everyone who attended our live webinar on Sanctions Compliance on 16 March, and for all the positive feedback.
We covered a lot of ground, including:
- Background to the sanctions regime generally, and how it differs to, and crosses over with, the AML regime
- New sanctions on Russia and Belarus
- The Economic Crime Bill and other measures
- The policies and procedures you should have in place
- How to update your firm wide risk assessment
- What to do in anticipation of SRA spot checks
- How to keep up to date
- Where to find relevant guidance
We had one unresolved question about whether a law firm should review its client retainers with Russian commercial clients, including multi national companies who have entities in Russia – specifically looking at whether the clients’ business involves areas subject to trade sanctions (e.g. high tech military equipment).
On reflection, we believe that the answer is yes, the retainers should at least be reviewed. While the onus is on sanction-checking the actual client, you cannot be involved in a transaction that breaches a sanction (trade or financial) without a license from OFSI. If it transpires that the matter does involve an entity that is subject to trade sanctions, and if the matter involves export, supply or transfer to, for use in Russia or the provision of any technical assistance, financial services or brokering services relating to the trade sanctions, then you will need to apply for a licence. Always ensure you keep an audit trail.
Look out for details of this month’s session on Regulation 21 of the Money Laundering Regulations (it’s catching out a lot of firms during SRA spot checks).
Save the date: 27 April at 12pm
- Elizabeth Nedin – struck off for intercepting, and then concealing, a client’s complaint from the COLP.
- Rebecca Murray – legal assistant ‘struck off’ (Section 43 Order) for dishonestly creating a letter to mislead a senior colleague.
- Victor Nwosu – solicitor fined £20,000 for sexual comments directed towards an interviewee.
- Marc Traube – fined £25,000 for AML failures in one specific transaction. No source of funds check, inadequate identity verification and using the client account as a banking facility.
- Brendan Casey – fined £2,000 for failing to keep proper accounts, resulting in an unqualified team member being able to misappropriate £25,000 of client settlement money.
- Qunmber Bin Ehsan – immigration solicitor struck off for ‘ghosting’ a client who had paid him £10,000 up front. The tribunal found that his behaviour was likely to have a negatively impacted the legal profession’s reputation.
- Roland Taylor – rebuked for making “offensive and inappropriate remarks about staff members at another law firm, both verbally and in writing”.
- Tuckers Solicitors LLP – fined £98,000 by the ICO for GDPR failure following a cyber-attack. The firm was found to have failed to adequately protect client data.
- Nabeel Amer Sheikh – 12 month suspension over recklessly filing and misleading the Court over a £2.9million costs bill, which “did not reflect the work actually undertaken”.
- Philip Browell – law firm owner fined £20,000 for using client money to pay business expeneses.
- Michael Nouril – fined £17,500 for AML failures, relating to the recent Mishcon De Reya record fine of £232,000.
- Fariya Ahmed – non-lawyer ‘struck off’ (Section 43 Order) following conviction for racially-aggravated abuse directed at a police officer.
- Ebony Jude Thomas – legal secretary ‘struck off’ (Section 43 Order) following theft conviction, after stealing clients’ jewellery and war medals.
- David Coleman – conveyancing assistant ‘struck off’ (Section 43 Order) for dishonestly misleading a lender client that documents had been sent, when he knew they had not.
- Omolarami Akindiji – in house solicitor struck off for making payments to spouse’s company.
- Stephen Mark Davies – rebuked for Accounts Rules breaches.
- Manraj Somal – fined £2,000 following drink driving conviction.
- Imran Khan – paralegal ‘struck off’ for falsifying Court documents to cover up an error.