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Professional discipline update October 2021

Leigh Day Regulatory & Disciplinary team's quarterly update on professional discipline.

As we are coming to the end of the third quarter to of the year, it appears we have returned to a sense of normality – for now, at least. Many of us are back in the office, perhaps working more flexibly, schools and nurseries remain open – through it all we hope you are safe and well.

In the last few editions of our quarterly update, you would have seen various links and resources from the team’s Quest for Regulatory Equality series. Since the last quarterly update, myself and the team have written a white paper on this topic, which I invite you to read.

The white paper draws together the ideas explored, and recommendations proposed (to the SRA and others) as to changes panellists and attendees believe might be made to improve what has become an entrenched situation. The intention of the events, of this paper and our team more generally is to make a significant, continued and lasting contribution to the discussion around this issue and, above all, to improve the consistency, transparency and fairness of the SRA’s enforcement processes.

You can read the paper white paper here, which I hope you will find a thought-proving read.

Gideon Habel

The Quest for Regulatory Equality

Read our report on how to address the continued disproportionality experienced by solicitors from the Global Majority in the SRA’s regulatory processes

The Quest for Regulatory Equality continues

In 2020 and 2021, Leigh Day’s Regulatory & Disciplinary team developed a programme of content and events exploring the disproportionate representation of and worse outcomes experienced by solicitors from a Global Majority background through the SRA’s enforcement processes.

Two events were held: the first in November 2020, around a month before the SRA released updated data about the equality, diversity and inclusion impact of its enforcement activities (2018-2019); and the second in March 2021, allowing time for analysis of and reflection on the significance of the SRA’s updated data. The events – held online due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic – brought together panellists from the Law Society, the Legal Services Board, the Society of Black Lawyers, the Society of Asian Lawyers, the author of the SRA’s last in-depth research into the issue as well as practitioners, including from Leigh Day’s Regulatory & Disciplinary team. The team has now produced a white paper arising out of the events including a number of recommendations and proposals to the SRA and others as to how the issue might be addressed.

The white paper not only underlines the issues of inequity throughout the SRA’s enforcement processes, but also includes realistic next steps which could be taken by the regulator. This is a way of carrying on the discussion of vital issues within the legal community, and requiring change from those who have the authority and capacity to do so.

It also encourages us all to carry on the conversation about how we can, as a collective, take action to level the playing field in the legal profession, referencing some of the questions, comments and experiences from attendees:

“The Gus John report recommended in 2014 that the SRA publish monitoring data on how its policies affect BAME solicitors. Nothing has been published since. Why has the LSB allowed the SRA to get away with not doing this?”

“How do we encourage BAME solicitors to apply for roles on tribunals, in particular the SDT and BTAS?”

“Question for [the Legal Services Board], what type of diversity analysis do you feel would be helpful? I work for a regulator who is very keen to get this right, but there is very little disciplinary data to actually draw any meaningful conclusion.”

“I see parallels with police stop and search. The exercise of discretion is where powerful discriminatory practices take ground. Looking at cases on an individual case basis commonly frustratingly leads to a finding that there is no racism, however the racial disproportionality across-the-board indicates there definitely is racism; that racism needs to be identified. It’s crucial therefore to root out racism in the exercise of discretion at all levels from initial referral moving forward. How to do that is the real challenge.”

Emma on Ethics: Junior Lawyers Division Conference

Working in the legal profession comes with its own high regulatory standards which need to be met and understanding ethics is a core part of ensuring longevity in your career. What happens when we make a mistake? How do we explain what happened?

On the 2nd of October, Emma Walker was a panellist at the next Junior Lawyers Division conference as a panellist. Emma spoke on Ethics: How to own up to your mistakes, and provided some tips on how to act ethically.

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Insights and articles since our last update

The team has written on some other key issues in the regulatory and disciplinary field, which you can read by clicking on the headings below:

We can help

Whatever your professional discipline or particular area of expertise, if you need expert guidance on regulatory compliance or regulatory investigation/regulatory prosecution, speak to one of our team. Email: or call 020 3780 0406.

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