The Law Society is to examine ways of providing legal support to solicitors who appear before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. A special committee of enquiry is expected to report back on options to Chancery Lane’s governing council by the end of the year.

Council members sanctioned the initiative by voting through a special motion at their latest plenary meeting last week. The motion, proposed by Paul Sharma, Council member for central London, read: ‘The Law Society Council recognises that justice demands that members appearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal should have access to legal support to ensure equality of arms. To this end, the Council authorises the creation of a special committee of enquiry, serviced by staff, to enquire how equality of representation can be achieved. This committee should consist of six Council members who will take expert evidence from inside and outside the Law Society with a view to providing a report to the Council for its deliberation and decision.’

Sharma hopes to chair the committee, which has yet to be constituted. He told the Gazette that its terms of reference may extend to considering support for solicitors who fall foul of the SRA, whose internal fining powers for solicitors and traditional law firms increased in 2022 from £2,000 to £25,000.

As the SRA’s powers have increased, the number of cases heard by the SDT has fallen - from 134 in 2017-18 to 76 in 2021-22. The number of SDT sitting days has risen, however, as cases have become more complex.

Sharma, who runs an employment law firm, said solicitors should be entitled to equality of arms before the SDT just as legal aid helps pay for legal advice, mediation or representation in court. He pointed to the example of the British Medical Association, which offers employment advice and support to doctors on matters related to personal conduct.

Sharma acknowledged, however, that the Law Society is not constituted as a trade union and that the committee’s deliberations would need to extend more widely than direct support. The lack of any indemnity for costs recovery, for example, could have prohibitive financial repercussions for Chancery Lane. Facilitating some form of insurance cover could be an alternative option, he suggested.

‘I don’t want to prejudge. We need to look at what steps - if any - the Law Society can take to assist,’ he said.

A Law Society spokesperson said: 'A motion was passed at the Law Society Council meeting on 8 May, following which a committee will be set up to consider how solicitors facing proceedings at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal might have access to greater support in future. The committee will seek input from relevant experts and will then submit a report to Council in due course.'


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