With over 200,000 solicitors in the UK how can you be sure that the solicitor you're hiring is the real deal and not some smooth-talking wannabe in a fancy suit?
In this article, we'll delve into why you should always check a solicitor's record before engaging their services, how you can use the SRA register to verify the qualifications of a solicitor, and how to understand the information you find. Newly armed with your solicitor checking powers, you'll be able to check credentials quicker than a solicitor can shout "objection!"
Why you should check a solicitor's record
Making sure to check a solicitor's record and background before hiring them is really important because it helps protect you from any bad behavior or mistakes they could make. Solicitors need to follow strict rules set by their regulator: the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (or SRA for short) to do their job well. Knowing that the solicitor you choose has a good history can make you feel more confident that they'll look out for your interests. If you've already had a problem with a solicitor and want to complain about them, don't worry - we have a detailed guide on how to make a complaint about a solicitor that you can follow.
Where can I get information about a record?
Several sources can provide information about a solicitor or legal expert's record in the UK. Solicitors records are available via the SRA and Law Society websites. Records of conveyancers, including Cilex regulated legal executives can be checked via the CLC (Council for Licensed Conveyancer) online directory. At Lawhive, we help people looking for legal help find a solicitor at an affordable price so the rest of this article will focus on the SRA register.
How to check a solicitor's record on the SRA website
To check a solicitor's record on the SRA website, follow these steps:
Visit the SRA website here.
Enter the solicitor's name, SRA ID number, or the name of their law firm in the search bar.
Click "Search" to view the search results.
Identify the solicitor you're looking for and click on their name to access their record.
How to interpret the information found in a solicitor's record
A solicitor's record contains various types of information, such as their qualifications, regulatory history, and any disciplinary actions. To interpret this information, it's essential to understand the meaning of certain terms and how to assess the overall quality of a solicitor.
The qualifications section of a solicitor's record provides information about their education, including their degree and any additional certifications or accreditations. These details can help you understand a solicitor's area of expertise and their level of experience in specific areas of law.
Look for qualifications that are relevant to your legal matter, such as specialized certifications in family law, property law, or criminal law. Additionally, check for any relevant professional memberships or affiliations, which can indicate a commitment to staying current in their field.
A solicitor's regulatory history includes any previous regulatory actions taken against them or their firm, such as fines, sanctions, or conditions imposed on their practice. A clean regulatory history suggests that the solicitor is more likely to be reliable and trustworthy.
It's essential to consider the nature and severity of any regulatory actions when assessing a solicitor's record. Minor infractions may not be as concerning as significant sanctions or a pattern of regulatory issues but it may be better to be safe rather than sorry given how many solicitors are out there for you to choose from!
The disciplinary actions section of a solicitor's record provides information about any suspensions, disbarments, or other disciplinary measures taken against them. These actions can be a red flag, indicating potential issues with the solicitor's professionalism or competence.
When reviewing disciplinary actions, you’ll want to consider the following
The nature of the misconduct – What was the specific action or behavior that led to the disciplinary action against the solicitor? Examples of misconduct can include:
Breach of confidentiality: Revealing sensitive client information without permission or legal obligation.
Conflict of interest: Representing multiple parties with opposing interests in the same case or having personal interests that compromise their ability to represent their client impartially.
Dishonesty or fraud: Misleading clients or other parties, falsifying documents, or engaging in fraudulent activities.
Negligence: Failing to provide a reasonable standard of care or skill in handling a client's legal matters, which may result in harm or financial loss to the client.
Misappropriation of client funds: Mishandling or illegally using client money for personal gain or other unauthorized purposes.
The severity of the disciplinary action – Disciplinary actions can vary in severity, depending on the nature of the misconduct and the circumstances surrounding the case. Common disciplinary actions include:
Private reprimand or admonition: A formal warning issued by the regulatory body, which is not made public but may be disclosed if further misconduct occurs.
Public reprimand: A public statement issued by the regulatory body, indicating that the solicitor has engaged in misconduct.
Fines or restitution: Monetary penalties imposed on the solicitor, which may include repaying misappropriated funds or compensating clients for financial losses resulting from the misconduct.
Suspension: A temporary revocation of the solicitor's license to practice law, typically for a specific period.
Disbarment: A permanent revocation of the solicitor's license, effectively ending their legal career. Hopefully it goes without saying but if a solicitor has been disbarred you shouldn’t be working with them!
The date of the action. Is it part of a pattern? – Assessing the date of the disciplinary action can provide context and help you determine if the misconduct was an isolated incident or part of a pattern of unprofessional behavior. Consider the following:
Recency: If the disciplinary action is recent, it may be more concerning than an isolated incident that occurred several years ago.
Frequency: A solicitor with multiple disciplinary actions over time may indicate a pattern of misconduct, raising concerns about their professionalism and competence.
Improvement: If a solicitor has a past disciplinary action but has since demonstrated a commitment to improving their practice (e.g., through additional training or compliance with imposed conditions), this may suggest that they have addressed the issue and are less likely to engage in future misconduct.
Our advice is to stick with solicitors that have a squeaky clean record even if it’s only for the piece of mind. When you work with a solicitor who has a history of professionalism and ethical conduct, you’ll have a much greater confidence in their ability to represent your best interests and effectively handle your case.
At Lawhive, we only work with solicitors who have a strong track record of professionalism. Our vetting process ensures that the solicitors we work with have not only demonstrated their legal expertise but have also maintained a clean record, free from any serious disciplinary actions or claims. Let us know if you’d like to work with one of our solicitors today!
Better Safe Than Sorry!
Checking a solicitor's record before engaging their services is crucial to ensuring that you work with a trustworthy and competent legal expert.
Now that you've learned how to check and interpret a solicitor's record using the SRA register, you're well-equipped to make informed decisions when selecting a legal expert for your needs. So, go forth and confidently choose a solicitor with a stellar record, or if you want to save the faff and have us do it for you, let us know about your case and we’ll get you over a free no obligation quote.