Regulation and disciplinary proceedings in the legal sector

The legal sector is strictly regulated and all solicitors must follow a stringent code of conduct. In England and Wales the sector is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The role of the authority is to ensure that the public is protected by enforcing high standards of conduct and acting when risks are apparent.

Our services are focused on the concept of  ‘Protect – Prevent – Defend’. We assist in the avoidance of problems and the solving of problems as they arise.

Our team offers SRA consultancy services to firms and COLPs / COFAs wishing to ensure compliance with SRA regulations. This can include preparing for SRA visits or compliance health checks in anticipation of sale or purchase of a business. The service is also valuable to firms concerned with the conduct of a particular employee or where demonstrating compliance is important to a tender and business development. Indeed, we can often assist with business development strategy because our contact with fellow professionals across the industry helps us understand what works.

When things go wrong, the team offer advice from the point at which the SRA consider a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) to representation at the SDT itself. This can include assistance with the consequences of intervention and managing SRA sanctions. Our lawyers also have many years’ experience representing legal professionals in associated criminal investigations and our full service presence means that JMW can help firms and individual lawyers get through other problems associated with SRA enforcement.

To find out more about our services call JMW today on 0800 652 5559.

Compliance Consultancy

Consultancy services cover every aspect of a firm’s compliance requirements, from gap analysis and training needs to outsourcing compliance tasks and SRA liaison. We shoulder the burden so that you can concentrate on delivering services to your clients.

  1. Solicitors Accounts Rules Compliance

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    The majority of solicitors and accounts professionals appearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal are referred because of alleged accounts rule breaches. Our consultants can identify potential SAR breaches by analysing current billing and financial transaction procedures, time recording, debt management and authorisations.  The degree of SAR compliance varies greatly between firms and clients are often unaware of problems that can be easily rectified to avoid serious issues with the SRA.

     

  2. HR Management

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    HR management within law firms is not just about absence and job descriptions. Members of staff represent the greatest asset, but also the biggest risk to law firms and suitable HR policies are essential in ensuring that both employees and business owners get the best out of the firm. The service offers assistance with recruitment processes, performance measurement, discipline and career progression amongst others. The day to day management and legal advice involved in HR management is offered through JMW’s HR365. 

  3. Policy and File Review Service

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    Handbooks and policies can fall out of date. Client care letters or terms of business may need to be updated as practices develop. This can make file review difficult and it increases the burden for lawyers, especially when complaints arise. Outsourcing the function to experts means that you can concentrate on fee earning and benefit from the improvements our experts have made across industry sectors. It results in audit reports showing where improvements can be made.

     

  4. Accreditation Services

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    The commercial advantages of accreditation are becoming increasingly obvious in a competitive market. Whether you seek quality assurance through LEXEL, CQS, ISO or Investors in People schemes, our team can guide you the process from start to finish.

     

  5. Compliance Training

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    2016 saw a fundamental change in the way competence is measured within the industry. It places a greater burden on the individual lawyer to produce evidence of expertise and is no longer simply a matter of completing the requisite hours of CPD. Clients are becoming increasingly sophisticated in identifying lawyers through their stated expertise and keeping up to date is just as much about business development as straightforward compliance. Our experts offer face to face training, online programmes and webinars to keep lawyers up to date across a range of specialisms.

     

  6. Strategic Compliance Advice

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    Independent oversight of a firm’s compliance strategy can be critical in ensuring potential problems are addressed before they develop into expensive headaches. Reviewing and approving the compliance strategy gives a firm peace of mind. Whether the firm choses a light touch or a fully integrated service, our experts can ensure that everything from complaints management to risk mitigation is covered.

     

  7. On-site compliance audits

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    A compliance audit is designed to identify the current level of compliance so that gaps can be addressed. This will include client care, policy reviews, file management, financial structure and how information is managed across the firm. It can also include a review of referral arrangements, the handling of complaints, the gifts and hospitality policies and the way in which internal breaches are rectified.

     

Enforcement and The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

We offer robust representation to solicitors in the early stages of enforcement, disciplinary tribunals and appeals based on tribunal decisions. Our experts can advise on the drafting of correspondence and reports in response to SRA allegations where consideration is being given to a referral to the SDT. Where the referral has already been made, we advise on the strength of the SRA case and challenge it to your best advantage.

Tribunals hear cases of alleged professional misconduct or breaches of professional rules and regulation. They deal with cases involving registered European and foreign lawyers and the tribunals also have jurisdiction over those who may not be qualified solicitors but are employed in the legal sector.

Tribunals have the power to:

  • Strike solicitors off the roll
  • Suspend solicitors indefinitely or for a specified period
  • Issue unlimited fines
  • Exclude a solicitor from Legal Aid work permanently or for a specified period
  • Restore solicitors to the roll

We have been representing fellow legal professionals for years. We know that lawyers facing professional misconduct investigations will want to be kept fully up to speed with proceedings, so we arrange regular team meetings. If necessary we may appoint experts from other departments – including family, media, employment – to your case.

Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions

If you are being investigated on a professional level, it is vital to seek legal assistance as soon as possible – doing so can help to limit serious damage to your professional reputation. It is very difficult for professionals to recover from serious reputational damage, regardless of the outcome of an investigation.

We have an enviable track record in defending legal professionals involved in criminal enquiries and prosecutions. We have dealt with investigations by bodies including:

  • The Serious Fraud Office
  • The Crown Prosecution Service
  • HMRC
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Financial Conduct Authority

Our expertise is varied, though we have a particular focus on cases involving serious fraud, corruption, asset recovery and bribery.

We represent those who are facing allegations that arise out of practising law as well as those who have been accused of committing a crime independently of their job.

What you should know about funding a case.

As of October 2010, the minimum terms and conditions no longer require professional indemnity insurers to give cover for the cost of disciplinary proceedings brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. In some criminal proceedings, legal expenses insurance may not be adequate.

If you are concerned about the cost of legal proceedings we can organise a confidential, no-obligation initial meeting to discuss your situation.

Find out more

If you require disciplinary proceedings defence in the legal sector, talk to us today on 0800 652 5559 or fill in our online enquiry form. We provide our services in Manchester, London and throughout the UK.

 

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