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What is the effect of a section 44B notice from the SRA?
I’m a sole practitioner. My firm is under investigation and I’ve been asked by the SRA to produce documents for inspection. It’s indicated that refusal may result in service of a section 44B notice. What’s the effect of the notice and where can I get advice on how to respond?
Paragraphs 7.3 and 7.4 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs 2019 requires you to cooperate with and make relevant information and documentation available to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Section 44B of the Solicitors Act 1974 gives power to the SRA to give notice to a solicitor, requiring information and documents to be made available to them by:
- a solicitor
- an employee of a solicitor
- a recognised body, or
- an employee or manager of, or a person with an interest in, a recognised body
The grounds for this are that it’s necessary to do so to assist with an investigation into professional misconduct by a solicitor.
The SRA will normally only exercise this power as part of an investigation and where the solicitor has declined to offer up the requested documents voluntarily.
If the notice is served, it will contain a time limit within which to provide the requested documentation.
For more information on the SRA's powers to gather information as part of an investigation, see its guidance on gathering evidence in regulatory and disciplinary investigations.
You can obtain specialist advice on responding to an investigation by the SRA from the Solicitors’ Assistance Scheme.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.
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