Law Society responds to SRA plans to increase law firm misconduct fines

The Law Society of England and Wales has hit back at proposals from the Solicitors Regulation Authority that could see fines for misconduct at large law firms dramatically increased.

In a statement Friday, Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce disagreed with the regulator’s proposals to increase misconduct fines for law firms and individual attorneys by a maximum from £2,000 to £25,000, saying the amount “is not appropriate”.

“We appreciate that the moderate increase in its internal fine threshold would help the SRA to make decisions in a greater number of straightforward cases. However, increasing its fine powers by more than 12 times the current limit is not appropriate,” it said in a statement on Friday.

“Our members are concerned that the SRA is acting as an investigator, prosecutor and judge without independent oversight.

“We suggest that a more appropriate increase – based on statistical data from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal – would be between £5,000 and £7,500, based on analysis of previous fines imposed over the past three years.

The SRA announced a consultation on the proposals in November 2021.

As well as potential fine increases, other considerations under consultation include the possibility of implementing a range of ‘fixed penalties’ of up to £1,500 so that ‘more minor issues can be dealt with easily’; and that the regulator “take into account the turnover or income of firms and individuals when setting fines”, to allow different measures to be taken depending on a lawyer’s senior or equity status.

Several high-profile SRA surveys have taken place in recent years. Baker McKenzie, former London chief Gary Senior, has paid a £55,000 fee after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct, while DWF chief financial officer Matthew Unwin has was banned from the profession in March 2021 for alleged sexual harassment.