An increasing number of solicitors are facing disciplinary matters with the Solicitors Regulation Authority opening 90 new disciplinary proceedings from January to August this year, compared to 58 during the same period last year.
A report by the SRA’s legal and enforcement sector shows that there has been a year-on-year increase of 55% while the number of litigation or legal advice matters that were opened also increased from 128 in the first eight months of 2013 to 149 in the same period this year. The bulk of these matters are requests for legal advice from other parts of the SRA, and comprise a mix of quickly resolved cases and more complex cases that are part of ongoing investigations.
The SRA said in the report that ‘an analysis will be undertaken to aid a better understanding of the causes of the increase. The cases received from supervision which fulfil the criteria for referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) increasingly tend to involve very serious misconduct and are sometimes very document intensive’.
In total, the legal and enforcement sector has 189 disciplinary cases – including those unissued, awaiting hearing, awaiting written judgement or appeal, 251 litigation or legal advice matters, and 12 applications to the SDT by solicitors or unadmitted staff, by the end of August 2014.
In addition, the risks arising from bogus firms or unauthorised firms and unregulated persons has also risen. As a result, the SRA published 128 warnings from January to August this year, compared to 102 during the same period in 2013 and that was considerably higher than 2012’s level when just 21 were posted to manage the risks from unregulated legal activities.