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.