If we are investigating you

Last updated 19 September 2016

Enforcement action

We are responsible for regulating you and your firm in the public interest.

We regulate you if you are a solicitor, Registered Foreign Lawyer, Registered European Lawyer or an employee or manager of a firm, regardless of your being a lawyer or not.

We will work with you to facilitate your compliance with the SRA Principles and the regulatory framework that flow from them. Our Supervision function is the risk-based oversight of the entire regulated community. Supervisors work constructively with firms when events occur or thematic work is relevant to the firm. However, enforcement action will be taken if there is serious non-compliance with the SRA Principles or a risk to the public exists which cannot be mitigated.

Firms and individuals

Compliance with a firm's regulatory obligations is the primary responsibility of a firm, however we may decide to investigate you as an individual where, for example, there is evidence of personal culpability (see Criteria to determine the focus of an investigation).

We may decide to write to you, setting out allegations or potential breaches of the SRA Principles. We will write to your firm's SRA contact or, if we are raising issues for you to consider, we will write to you directly. We will ask you or your firm for a written explanation.

If you are an employee, we may

  • write to the firm that employed you at the time of the alleged failure to comply, or
  • write to your current employer, if you have moved firm.

Your reply will help us, and you have an obligation to deal with us in an open, timely and cooperative way.

What happens next

We may decide that further action is necessary if, in our view,

Our investigation may be desk-based whereby we communicate with you in writing and by telephone. Alternatively, we may decide to commence an on-site investigation.

On-site investigations

We may decide to conduct a formal on-site investigation of your firm. For more details about how and when we decide to investigate on site, see our guidance on on-site investigations.

Your obligations and our powers

Please also see our guidance on:


Enforcement: Findings and decisions of the SRA

If you are a firm or regulated individual

Where we decide there has been a failure to comply with your obligations, we may

We may also decide to refer the conduct of employees or managers of a licensed body to an individual's appropriate regulator (see section 98 of the Legal Services Act 2007).

If you are a non-solicitor we can require a solicitor, registered European lawyer or firm wishing to employ or remunerate you to obtain prior written permission from us. We also make or seek an order requiring our permission be obtained before you become a manager or acquire an interest in a firm. We can do this if you have either

  • been convicted of a criminal offence, or
  • been involved in misconduct relating to your involvement in a legal practice.

We will take action if we think the offence or misconduct are serious and supported by evidence.

See our guidance on regulation of non-authorised persons.

Please note that the links provided are not an exhaustive list of authorities but are designed to assist you.

In some cases, you have a right of appeal.

Invoking the SRA's appeal procedure

Generally, you have an internal right of appeal against a decision to

Generally, you have no internal right of appeal against a decision to

  • issue you with a letter of advice;
  • authorise the making of an application to the SDT (such a decision is a decision to prosecute, not an adjudication);
  • intervene in your practice (a challenge to an intervention can only be brought in the High Court);
  • issue directions rather than factual findings, including a decision to stay or adjourn;
  • investigate, for example by requiring the production of information or documents;
  • enter into an agreement with the SRA;
  • order you to pay the costs of an investigation.

(See rule 1.1 and rule 11 of the SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules 2011.)

How to appeal internally

If you are making an internal appeal under the SRA Disciplinary Procedure Rules 2011, you must appeal within 14 calendar days of the date of the letter or electronic communication informing you of the decision or within a longer period if specified by us.

If you are making an appeal under the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 or the SRA Practising Regulations 2011 you must generally commence an appeal within 28 days of notification of the relevant decision. You should consult rule 32.1 in some detail.

Your appeal must clearly state the reasons for your disagreement with our decision.

You must check the rules in detail since in some cases you must invoke the SRA's internal appeals procedure before you may appeal to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal or High Court, where there is such a right.

Appeals to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

If you are a solicitor, REL, RFL or if you are a recognised sole practitioner, a recognised body or are involved in such a body as a manager or employee or licensed body, you have a right of appeal to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) if we have made a direction or decision to

  • rebuke you (where we have also made a decision to publish the decision to rebuke);
  • fine you; or
  • publish a decision to fine or rebuke you.

Where you are subject to such a direction or decision, you may appeal to the SDT within the period of 28 days from the date on which the notice of the direction or decision is given to you, or if there has been a decision following an internal appeal, within the period of 28 days from the date on which the notice of that decision is given to you (see SDT Appeal Rules 2011).

An appeal lies to the High Court from the SDT. The High Court may make such order as it thinks fit.

If you are a non-solicitor and we or the SDT have made an order under section 43 of the Solicitors Act

  1. requiring a firm wishing to employ or remunerate you to obtain prior written permission from us, or
  2. requiring a firm to obtain our permission before you become a manager or acquire an interest in a firm

you may make an application to the SDT for it to be reviewed.

If you are a licensed body or are involved in a licensed body

You have a right of appeal to the SDT where we have made a direction or decision to

  • rebuke you (where we have also made a decision to publish the decision;
  • fine you;
  • disqualify you from acting as a HOLP, HOFA or manager of a licensed body (SRA Authorisation Rules 2011);
  • refusal to bring such a disqualification to an end following an application to do so;
  • taken certain decisions under Schedule 13 of the Legal Services Act 2007, such as to impose a condition upon an investor's material interest in the licensed body or to object to (i.e. refuse to approve or withdraw approval) a material interest being held.

You may appeal to the SDT within the period of 28 days from the date on which the notice of the direction or decision is given to you as appellant, or, if there has been a decision following an internal appeal, within the period of 28 days from the date on which the notice of that decision is given to the you as appellant.

If you are an licensed body or in some cases the person to whom the decision relates  

Rule 31 of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 provides you with rights of appeal to the SDT which includes decisions to

  • revoke or suspend authorisation;
  • modify the terms or conditions on authorisation;
  • withdraw approval of you as a manager, COLP or COFA;
  • withdraw approval of a person being an owner of a licensed body
  • impose conditions on the holding of an interest

You should check the rule in detail since the rule specifies when you must first invoke an internal appeal or when you may do so.

Where you are subject to such a direction or decision and you appeal under the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 you may appeal to the SDT within the period of 28 days:

  1. from the date on which the notice of the decision that is subject to appeal is given to you as appellant;
  2. from the date on which the notice of the refusal of an appeal under the internal appeals procedure is given; or
  3. from the date on which the notice of the decision to impose a condition under the internal appeals procedure is given;

as appropriate.

In some cases there is an onward appeal to the High Court from decisions of the SDT (see the Legal Services Act 2007 (Appeals from Licensing Authority Decisions)(No.2) Order 2011).

If you are a recognised body

Rule 30 of the SRA Authorisation Rules provides you with rights of appeal to the High Court in relation to some decisions including decisions to

  • modify the terms and conditions of authorisation;
  • not to approve you, or to withdraw approval of you as an owner, manager, COLP or COFA;
  • suspend or revoke authorisation.

You should check the rule in detail since the rule specifies when you must first invoke an internal appeal or when you may do so.

Where you are subject to such a direction or decision and you appeal under the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011, you may appeal to the High Court within the period of 28 days

  1. from the date on which the notice of the decision that is subject to appeal is given to you as appellant;
  2. from the date on which the notice of the refusal of an appeal under the internal appeals procedure is given; or
  3. from the date on which the notice of the decision to impose a condition under the internal appeals procedure is given;

as appropriate (see rule 32 of the SRA Authorisation Rules).

If you are a licensed body

In some cases there is an appeal to the High Court (see rule 30 of the SRA Authorisation Rules and the Legal Services Act 2007 (Appeals from Licensing Authority Decisions)(No.2) Order 2011).

Direct appeals to the High Court

You have a statutory right of appeal directly to the High Court where we have made a decision to impose a condition on your practising certificate, registration or authorisation if you are a recognised body.

Calculating external appeal periods

When calculating the period of "28 days from the date on which the notice of a direction or decision is given to the appellant", the SRA will deem notice to have been received by the appellant

  • on the second weekday after the date of a letter containing such a notice is posted by first class post;
  • on the first weekday after an electronic communication has been sent which contains such a notice, such as where an email is sent or where a notification that a communication is available via mySRA is sent.

For example:

  • the SRA will deem a letter posted on Monday, 1 October, to have been received on Wednesday, 3 October, and therefore an appeal should be made by Wednesday, 31 October;
  • the SRA will deem an email sent at any time on Monday, 1 October, to have been received on Tuesday, 2 October, and therefore an appeal should be made by Tuesday, 30 October.

In some cases, the rules will define the period. In other instances, the appeal period will run from the "date of notification" or "notice" as defined for the purposes of the SRA Handbook. Therefore, in each case, you should refer to the wording of the relevant provision giving rise to the appeal right.

Where to find help

You can seek independent advice at any time during the investigation. There are various sources of advice and support which can be found on our 'Your health, your career' page.

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