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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.

These increased fines are part of the SRA’s efforts to ensure that solicitors and firms maintain high standards of professionalism and integrity, and to protect the public from potential harm.

Why is the SRA increasing fines?

The SRA has said that the increased fines will be used to deter solicitors and firms from engaging in conduct that falls below the required standards, and to ensure that those who do engage in such conduct are held accountable. The SRA has also stated that it will use the increased fines as a way to drive cultural change within the legal profession, encouraging solicitors and firms to take their professional responsibilities more seriously.

What factors will the SRA consider when deciding whether to impose a fine?

There are a number of factors that the SRA will consider when deciding whether to impose a fine on a solicitor or firm, including:

  • the seriousness of the breach
  • the harm caused
  • the level of cooperation shown by the solicitor or firm
  • mitigating circumstances such as whether the solicitor or firm has taken steps to prevent future breaches

What effects will increased fines have on the legal profession?

Some in the legal sector have concerns that there are not enough safeguards on the new powers to ensure transparency and accountability. For example, the Law Society is concerned that the changes would reduce the number of serious and significant SRA breaches that are presented before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), thereby reducing the transparency of the decisions made, as such changes would give the SRA powers to act as “investigator, prosecutor, and judge”. The Law Society has also expressed that they think the proposed increases to fines and the SRA’s fining powers are excessive and unnecessary. They suggest that a more moderate fine increase would be appropriate. Finally, the Law Society do not think it is necessary to implement a fixed penalty regime, believing that the current system is fair and appropriate.

However, the SRA maintains that the changes reflect their commitment to maintaining high standards of professionalism and integrity, and ensure that solicitors and firms are held accountable for their actions, believing that these increases will help to strengthen the reputation of the legal profession, and give the public confidence in the services that solicitors provide.

How can VinciWorks help?

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