The SRA investigation
The investigation can be very time consuming and demanding on you and your practice and can take a considerable period of time to complete. The SRA can also send a forensic investigations team to your practice. If this happens the matter is very serious indeed and you must manage it professionally.
After completion of the investigation, they will want to record interviews with solicitors who have a positive obligation to co-operate. This results in the preparation of a Forensic Investigation Report which details alleged breaches of the code and their findings. An SRA caseworker will write to the solicitor enclosing the report and set out questions they want answers to. This is known as an ‘Explanation with Warnings’ (EWW) letter.
The investigator can send the letter without attending the firm. However, this does not imply the SRA is dealing with the matter in a less serious manner. It’s still important to get advice promptly. As a crucial part of the disciplinary process, the solicitor usually has 14 days to prepare a clear and coherent response. This should have consistency with what a solicitor will say if the case reaches the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. It’s important not to disclose ignorance of any SRA regulation or belittle the seriousness of the alleged breach for fear of aggravating the situation. Your response forms the basis of any defence a solicitor has through the investigation.
The SRA caseworker refers the case to an SRA Adjudicator/Authorised Officer who will make a decision. It’s rare that no action is taken and sometimes they may provide a letter of advice. Additionally, they may find no case to answer or they can issue an expression of regret regarding the solicitor’s conduct. Furthermore, the caseworker may issue a warning, a rebuke or a serious reprimand, impose a fine of up to £2000 or they may refer the case to a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT.) We can provide advice and guidance through any of these stages.