On 1 September the SRA issued sexual misconduct guidance, an important piece of guidance for lawyers and those working in regulated firms. It doesn’t paint the legal profession in a good light, but unfortunately it was necessary.
The guidance sets out the SRA’s expectations for individuals and the firms that it regulates, going so far as to give examples of behaviour that is – and is not – likely to become a regulatory issue. Its aim is to give the profession a certain level of certainty in where ‘the line’ is.
This is undoubtedly a difficult area for a regulator. It needs to strike a balance between setting the boundaries of inappropriate sexual conduct, and not becoming judgmental or preachy.
One of the issues that the SRA has to grapple with is when a solicitor’s behaviour in their private life (if there is such a thing) becomes a regulatory issue.
The context of this is a string of high profile disciplinary cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct, often involving senior and junior colleagues. There have been suggestions that legal regulators and law firms have a history of turning a blind eye to – and actively covering up – serious sexual misconduct. But times have changed, and in a post #MeToo world, this is simply not acceptable.
More recently, mental health and workplace wellbeing have become a core concern of the SRA. Failing to protect and support colleagues is not an option for law firms and their management teams.
In this article, we discuss:
- Why the sexual misconduct guidance is necessary
- How Beckwith threw a spanner in the regulatory works
- What the new SRA sexual misconduct guidance says
- What this means for firms and individuals
- Wider implications for the regulation of solicitors’ private lives
‘Even the most successful law firms benefit from a strategic review’, says influential law firm business adviser
There is no doubt that the legal sector has recently undergone a period of extensive change and reform, with what might have taken decades to happen taking place over a couple of years. The effects of those reforms are only just beginning to be seen now, and where many firms have prospered, others have struggled to cope.
With a potential recession on the horizon, it is vital that management teams understand the drivers of profitability, and the key tools to unlock cash.
Andy Poole of Armstrong Watson says that a strategic review is a key first step to understanding your business as it stands now. It highlights what is working well, and key areas for improvement.
The thought of an SRA money laundering audit may fill you with dread. But the regulators are getting more proactive about their role as AML supervisor. Many firms have had the pleasure of discussing AML procedure, over tea and a biscuit no doubt, with the SRA. So what can you expect when the SRA comes calling?
Carly Fallon sets out what firms need to know.
News and Guidance
- Consultation: Consumer protection for post six-year negligence – the SRA’s plans for post-SIF cover. SIF is due to wind up in September 2023. This consultation closes 3 January 2023
- Scam alert: Email misusing the name Solicitors Regulation Authority – we’ve seen a few of these scam emails this week, asking the recipient to open an attachment and respond to a spoofed email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). Don’t!!
Law Society – New and updated practice notes (may require login)
- Guide: UK sanctions regime – updated following the government’s announcement, in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, that ‘transactional legal advisory services’ are being added to the list of UK export bans to Russia.
- Press release: Proportionality of the SRA’s extra powers in combatting economic crime must be considered – Law Society’s response to the announcement that the SRA will have the power to issue unlimited fining powers in relation to financial crime disciplinary matters.
- Feature: The veneer of legitimacy: professional money launderers and how they impact the legal sector – HMRC ‘suspect that many solicitors used by [professional money launderers] will likely be unaware of their role in facilitating multimillion pound money laundering schemes’.
- Research: Legal Services Consumer Panel finds that ‘ethnic minority consumers do not feel listened to by lawyers’
- ICO: Home Office warned after sensitive documents left at London venue
- AML resource: Basel AML Index 2022: 11th Public Edition – Ranking money laundering and terrorist financing risks around the world – a useful tool to assess the AML risk posed by various global jurisdictions.
- AML resource: Anguilla, The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands added to EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes – although not directly related to AML, this list of uncooperative tax havens will help inform your financial crime risk assessments.
Sexual Misconduct and the Regulation of Solicitors’ Private Lives
19 October at 12pm
Invitations have been sent out for next week’s webinar. We will be joined by Geoffrey Williams KC, an expert advocate in this field.
The SRA recently provided hotly-anticipated guidance on sexual misconduct in the profession, following some high profile disciplinary cases.
In this session we will discuss:
– the key points of the SRA’s recent guidance on sexual misconduct
– the context – asking how we got here and how the regulators have dealt with issues in the past
– where the ‘line’ is between private and professional life
– practical steps for law firms to take
And don’t forget, you will have the opportunity to ask your questions live.
You can sign up in advance here (places limited by Zoom).
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
We look forward to seeing you!
SRA and SDT disciplinary decisions
- Emma Shears – non-lawyer banned from the profession for falsifying legal directory submissions and misleading her employer.
- Banner Jones Limited (a firm) – rebuked after acting on both sides of a conveyancing transaction without client consent. See our blog on acting for buyer and seller here.
- Steve Davies Solicitors Ltd (a firm) – fined £1,500 for Transparency Rules failures, namely not having the correct costs and complaints information on the website.
- Glen Warwick and Andrew La Roche – non-lawyers banned from the profession for selling law firm employer’s property online.
- Amoy Clarke – non-lawyer banned for dishonestly misusing her law firm employer’s air miles account for personal benefit.
- Nathan Horsley – struck off following fraud convictions
- David Carter Hughes – fined £15,000 for giving incorrect ground rent advice (due to using an outdated precedent) to over 100 clients.
- Zoe Ann Lowe – personal injury solicitor struck off for under-settling a claim after missing court deadlines, and then misleading the client for four years.