Solicitors and firms are required to “report to the SRA promptly, serious misconduct by any person or firm authorised by the SRA, or any employee, manager or owner of any such firm (taking into account, where necessary, your duty of confidentiality to your client)”
What constitutes serious misconduct can be difficult, and it is not defined. It is a matter of judgment, and it needs to be got right because a failure to do so can bring sanctions.
The Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 contained a definition which was in many ways very helpful and it remains a good guide today. It defined serious misconduct as conduct relating to a criminal offence, fraud and dishonesty. No surprises really.
But what if the conduct being looked at is not dishonest, or criminal or fraudulent?
The position is now affected by the existence of so many conduct warnings from the SRA. These can elevate and make serious what may otherwise have not been. To take an example, it might not be thought that breach of Rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 (misuse of a client account) was caught by the definition of serious misconduct, but after the SRA issued its warning that it was viewed seriously there is no real room for doubt. The same will apply to all SRA Warnings.
COLPs and COFAs can have a difficult task evaluating a position and determining whether a report is required and it is something that causes real anxiety.
This is an area I can offer help with, both in advising whether a report is required and if so, how it should be done.