A solicitor’s reputation is everything. In the career of any solicitor they can expect to receive more complaints against them than any other professional. How you deal with them often influences the outcome of any disciplinary proceedings.
If you are a solicitor who is subject to disciplinary proceedings before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on foot of a complaint then read carefully the following top 10 tips:-
- Do nip it in the bud. Before any complaint goes before the Disciplinary Tribunal there has usually been plenty of scope to address a client complaint.
- Do reply to the correspondence from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). Check the disciplinary records in any Gazette to see how many solicitors have been disciplined simply because they ignored the correspondence.
- Do contact the ‘Panel to assist solicitors in difficulty with the Law Society’. They are there to help you rather than judge you and are independent of the SDT.
- Maintain a full file. Often disciplinary proceedings are decided on the oral evidence of the complainant as the complainant is generally given the benefit of the doubt. Documentary evidence is given greater weight that oral evidence by the disciplinary committees. That includes attendances of meetings and telephone calls.
- Be careful how you reply to a notification of a complaint. Quite often accountants deliver a prompt reply without giving thought to the consequences. Vagueness attracts suspicion. No reply implies guilt. Specificity with supporting documents is the key. Keep the tone objective and respectful.
- Engage legal support promptly. Lawyers are a necessary evil. They will assist in communications objectivity, strategy and representation.
- Review the rules. There are many and there are many updates of the rules which can be overwhelming. Familiarise yourself with possible sanctions
- Prepare a table of proofs that you will rely to address each element of the complaint. The process is daunting so don’t lose sight of the big picture, which is your defence.
- Engage experts. Ignore your instinct to save money. An expert who prepares a report and gives evidence to support your Defence is worth their weight in gold.
- Prepare a chronology of events and a summary of your career to date.
Larry Fenelon is a litigation partner in Ogier Leman. He specialise in professional indemnity claims defending solicitors and represents solicitors before the Disciplinary Tribunal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01 6393000.
This publication is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. No liability is accepted by Ogier Leman for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. Any and all information is subject to change.