Independence and integrity

Why this risk matters

  • Public confidence in the provision of legal services an essential part of the rule of law. Solicitors must meet high professional standards and this includes acting with integrity and independence.
  • Solicitors owe duties to their client as their trusted advisor, but they also owe duties to third parties, the court and the wider public interest.
  • The duty to act with integrity and independence applies to all areas of legal practice. However, we have concerns about the conduct of some solicitors involved in certain types of litigation or claims, notably personal injury and payment protection insurance recovery. We are also concerned about solicitors involved in facilitating tax avoidance.

Trends

  • Reports relating to a lack of integrity are rising, from 70 in the third quarter of 2014 to 89 in the first quarter of 2017.
  • Most investigations into these reports do not result in disciplinary action. Many reflect misunderstandings, from the opponent, of the solicitor’s role. However, some cases result in fines, rebukes and, in the most serious cases, a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
  • In June 2017, a solicitor was ordered struck from the Roll by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for breaches that included facilitating tax avoidance schemes that he knew had previously led to penalties from HMRC.

Actions

  • Solicitors should read our warning notices on the conduct of personal injury and payment protection insurance claims.
  • We have recently issued a warning notice about involvement in tax avoidance. The Government intends to penalise professionals who advise on schemes that HMRC later defeats.
  • Our paper on balancing duties in litigation provides more information about managing he different duties that solicitors owe.
  • We are continuing to reform our regulation to make sure it meets our modern approach while remaining effective. In autumn 2017, we will be consulting on a new enforcement strategy. This will provide a clear framework, setting out the factors we are likely to consider when considering taking regulatory action.

Further information

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