The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has fined the conveyancing firm, Ferguson Bricknell Solicitors, £20,000 ($24,400) for falling short of its anti-money laundering (AML) obligations. The firm also had to pay £1,350 for the cost of the SRA probe. The fine was issued under a regulatory settlement agreement following an investigation by the SRA.

The investigation found that the firm did not have a compliant, practice-wide, anti-money laundering (AML) risk assessment in place until July 29, 2022, and also failed to fully assess its product/services risks, specifically those associated with conveyancing and controlling client money, which accounted for 75% of its fee income. The risks associated with conveyancing should have been addressed in the assessment provided when the investigation began.

Continue reading

From new ESG regulations to a crackdown on bribery, rapid fluctuations in crypto currency, changes to the regulated sector and the ongoing conflict in Europe demanding a laser-like focus on the supply chain, 2023 looks set to demand even more from compliance professionals.

We have created an in-depth guide to everything compliance in 2023. The guide covers the top ten items you can expect to see in your regulatory inbox, with tips on next steps.

Continue reading

What are SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation)?

SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) are lawsuits that are filed with the intention of silencing, intimidating, or punishing individuals or organizations for exercising their right to free speech on matters of public concern. These lawsuits are often brought by private parties, such as corporations or individuals, against individuals or organizations that have spoken out against them or their activities.

The SRAs new warning notice on SLAPPs

Recently, the SRA issued a new warning notice on SLAPPs, in response to reports that solicitors are bringing allegations without merit at the behest of wealthy clients to stifle freedom of expression and prevent the media from reporting on issues of public interest such as academic research, whistleblowing, campaigning or investigative journalism.

The warning notice makes clear that acting in this way would constitute a breach of a number of SRA Principles and Rules in its Code of Conduct for Individuals and Firms. 

Continue reading

Findings from the SRA’s recent thematic review included the insight that firms need to have stronger evidence that supervision is taking place. Out of 76 files reviewed by the SRA, only 29 of them showed evidence of supervision taking place. Therefore, in their new guidance, the SRA has included a section on effective supervision that is applicable to all solicitors and firms that supervise individuals delivering legal services, including services that are provided by fee earners who are not directly regulated by the SRA.

The new guidance also stresses that merely having supervision in place is not sufficient to fulfil firms’ regulatory obligations; rather, supervision needs to be effective. Therefore, firms should take proactive steps to ensure that supervision is effective and that supervisors are being held accountable.

Continue reading
Image of a man with his head in his hands

SRA Thematic Review

In February 2022, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published a Thematic Review, which included responses from over 200 solicitors. The SRA’s hypothesis was that “if employees are not adequately supported to manage mistakes or to manage client demands, they may be at risk of behaving unethically”.  The review helped the SRA identify a serious problem in firms, with around 25% of those surveyed reporting that their firms do not have a positive workplace culture. Issues raised included being overworked and intolerably pressured to meet targets, as well as problems with bullying.

Continue reading
Group of Diverse Hands Together Joining Concept

What is a positive workplace culture?

A positive workplace culture is an environment where employees feel valued, respected, and supported. It is a culture where employees are motivated to do their best work, feel a sense of belonging, and have a clear understanding of the organisation’s mission, values, and goals. Positive workplace culture also includes open communication, trust, and collaboration among employees, as well as a sense of accountability and a focus on achieving common goals. A positive culture can lead to increased employee satisfaction, loyalty, and motivation, which can contribute to success for the organisation.

How to create a positive workplace culture

According to the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority), a positive workplace culture is essential for the well-being and effectiveness of solicitors and their firms. The new guidance that the SRA has published on how firms can promote a positive workplace culture includes doing the following:

Encouraging a respectful and inclusive environment 

Firms should aim to create a culture where everyone feels valued, respected and able to contribute. This includes promoting diversity and inclusion, and addressing any instances of discrimination or harassment.

Continue reading
Photo of British money

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales. It is responsible for setting and enforcing standards for the legal profession, and has the power to fine solicitors or firms who fail to meet these standards.

Recently, the SRA has announced that it will be increasing its fines for solicitors and firms who breach its rules: The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill removes the statutory fining limit for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), allowing the SRA to set its own limits on financial penalties imposed for economic crime disciplinary matters. Since July 2022, the SRA has been able to fine ‘traditional firms’ and staff up to £25k, which would represent 90% of all fines previously issued by the Tribunal. 

Under the new fining powers, a Bridgend-based firm was slapped last month with a £15k fine plus SRA costs.

Continue reading

The SRA is set to make the first changes to its standards and regulations (STaRs), which were first introduced in 2019. The Standards and Regulations launched in 2019 replaced the SRA Handbook, which had been long and confusing. The new SRA Standards and Regulations are much more concise and no longer stipulate indicative behaviours. The rules in the new handbook are less prescriptive and include separate codes of conduct for firms and individuals. Additionally, the new standards adopted simplified Accounts Rules and a new enforcement strategy.

Why are changes being proposed to SRA standards?

While the majority of solicitors and law firms have given positive feedback about the new rules and codes of conduct, the SRA has identified, via feedback and evaluation, some areas that are causing some practical difficulties either for firms or operationally for the SRA, and that some rules need further clarification. 

Continue reading

Employees of law firms are regularly confronted with ethical dilemmas in the course of their work. These dilemmas stem from conflicting principles in the ethical code and the complex nature of legal work. VinciWorks’ new course, Ethics for Law Firms, part of the larger SRA training suite, introduces learners to the foundations of ethical thinking and provides the tools for how to deconstruct dilemmas, extract the conflicting principles, evaluate the situation and make a considered decision. 

Continue reading

Recently, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) issued new detailed guidance for how regulated firms must handle different situations related to sexual misconduct. The guidance comes after years of increasing complaints of misconduct within the sector. 

The guidance is intended to clarify the SRA’s expectations for what is acceptable workplace behaviour, the way firms handle reports of sexual misconduct, and when regulatory action is needed. It lays out a model for understanding the way the regulator thinks about which types of actions require intervention.

Try our course – Sexual Misconduct: Understanding the SRA Guidance

Continue reading