A leading authority on regulation has warned that solicitors face being prevented from correcting their own mistakes, following a landmark ruling by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

Writing in today’s Gazette, Gregory Treverton-Jones QC says law firms will be forced to send clients to another firm rather than put things right at their own expense when they identify an error.

Passing on the client will usually prove more expensive for the client and ‘drag matters out’, says Treverton-Jones, who is co-author of The Solicitor’s Handbook.

His warning is prompted by an SDT ruling in which a law firm ended up sanctioned by the tribunal despite its best efforts to remedy its mistake, a course of action which had been approved by the firm’s insurers. In a case involving alleged conflict of interest, Howell Jones LLP consented to an agreed outcome under which the firm paid a £5,000 fine and costs to the SRA of £26,850. This meant ‘that the overall cost to the firm and/or its insurers of having behaved honestly and honourably throughout must have been around £150,000’.

Treverton-Jones also suggests the decision is contrary to authority, adding: ‘The SRA does not seem to consider that an own-interest conflict can be cured by the sort of pragmatic solution that has been in place for decades. The only winners will be professional negligence lawyers.’