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Use of investigatory powers

25 November 2019

Note that the SRA Handbook (version 21) was replaced by the SRA Standards and Regulations on, and with effect from, 25 November 2019.

This practice note will shortly be updated to reflect the introduction of the SRA Standards and Regulations. Until then, you are advised to check any references in the practice note to the current Handbook against the new Standards and Regulations to ensure that you are aware of the up-to-date position on all issues to which the practice note refers.

The SRA has powers to investigate misconduct, including the power to require solicitors to explain their conduct and to produce documents.

This practice note seeks to clarify the position relating to the circumstances in which you must provide documents or attend an interview, and your rights therein.

Legal update

This practice note is the Law Society's view of good practice in this area. It is not legal advice.

Practice notes are issued by the Law Society for the use and benefit of its members. They represent the Law Society's view of good practice in a particular area. They are not intended to be the only standard of good practice that solicitors can follow. You are not required to follow them, but doing so will make it easier to account to oversight bodies for your actions.

Practice notes are not legal advice, nor do they necessarily provide a defence to complaints of misconduct or of inadequate professional service. While care has been taken to ensure that they are accurate, up to date and useful, the Law Society will not accept any legal liability in relation to them.

For queries or comments on this practice note contact the Law Society's Practice Advice Service.

Professional conduct

The following sections of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 are relevant to this issue:

SRA Principles

There are ten mandatory principles which apply to all those the SRA regulates and to all aspects of practice. The principles can be found in the SRA Handbook.

The SRA Overseas Rules 2013 apply to regulated individuals practising overseas and to responsible authorised bodies.

Terminology

Must - A specific requirement in legislation or of a principle, rule, outcome or other mandatory provision in the SRA Handbook. You must comply, unless there are specific exemptions or defences provided for in relevant legislation or the SRA Handbook.

Should - Outside of a regulatory context, good practice for most situations in the Law Society's view. In the case of the SRA Handbook, an indicative behaviour or other non-mandatory provision (such as may be set out in notes or guidance).

These may not be the only means of complying with legislative or regulatory requirements and there may be situations where the suggested route is not the best possible route to meet the needs of your client. However, if you do not follow the suggested route, you should be able to justify to oversight bodies why the alternative approach you have taken is appropriate, either for your practice, or in the particular retainer.

May - A non-exhaustive list of options for meeting your obligations or running your practice. Which option you choose is determined by the profile of the individual practice, client or retainer. You may be required to justify why this was an appropriate option to oversight bodies.

SRA Code - SRA Code of Conduct 2011

The Law Society also provides a full glossary of other terms used throughout this practice note

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Practice Advice Service

The Practice Advice Service provides a dedicated support line for Law Society members and employees of law firms. Call us on 020 7320 5675.

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