Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal proceedings


Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) is an independent statutory body that is empowered by the Master of the Rolls to adjudicate upon the alleged misconduct of lawyers. Its 35 members, 12 of which are Lay, are drawn from a broad cross-section of society to reflect the makeup of both the profession and the public more broadly.

It’s important that you understand how this tribunal works and how to deal with it which is an area of expertise for Murdoch Solicitors.

What To Do If You’ve Been Served With SDT Papers

If the SRA has referred you or your firm to the SDT, you can usually expect to wait around six months before receiving formal the papers that mark the beginning of SDT proceedings.

If we’ve not already been acting for you, we'll ask you to send us the papers to review (or ask that you authorise the SDT to permit us access to its online case management software Caselines), as early consideration will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome. As SDT specialists, we'll guide you on defences, liability, culpability, the likely outcome, the prospects of an Agreed Outcome and any evidential issues that require early action. Early consideration of the SRA's application is  important for a number of reasons, not least, to get into a position to make a detailed offer, or if the case demands it, expert medical evidence, for example, of mental health issues, or disclosure of documents in the hands of a third party is required.

You’ll receive papers by e-mail, post or DX from the SDT including the SRA’s formal application, a supporting statement known as a ‘Rule 12 statement’, and standard directions issued by the SDT. You will also be invited to register with the SDT's software platform Caselines.

The standard directions issued by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal imposes a tight deadline on you to file an ‘Answer’, effectively your Defence. The content of your Answer can be crucial to the outcome of the proceedings.

Other directions will be given concerning disclosure, witness evidence, listing of a Case Managment Hearing and the Substantive Hearing as well as various other administrative requirements. These directions can be varied, and the sooner you apply to vary them the more likely the SRA and SDT will agree.

From the outset we’ll be able to guide you through the SDT proceedings in your best interest. It’s likely that you’ll take one of two steps. The first is to make a ‘without prejudice offer’ to the SRA, a document which cannot be used in court and which would call to withdraw the proceedings under a Regulatory Settlement Agreement. The second option is an ‘Agreed Outcome’ which is a form of Carecrast agreement whereby the SDT is bound to the outcome of the proceedings.

The Hearing

If the application proceeds to a substantive hearing, it will be heard before a panel of three. There will be two solicitor members of the SDT and a lay member. The hearing proceeds in a similar fashion to civil court hearings, although the style is very different. Where allegations are contested or evidence is disputed it is likely that you will give oral evidence and be cross-examined.

Why Choose Murdochs Solicitors as Your SDT Defence solicitor?

Our specialist three-strong team has many years of experience representing solicitors and firms in SDT proceedings. We conduct most of our advocacy in-house, ensuring that your case is handled by someone who is an experienced specialist, understands the nuances of your case and cares about the outcome. There are likely to be cost savings too.

We believe that we have an excellent record in defending solicitors. Because our experience has trained us to understand when to admit and mitigate, and when to defend. Litigation at the SDT requires a very different style from court litigation; get your response wrong, and you won’t be able to demonstrate adequate insight, which is likely to increase your sanction.

You’ll see our name on a number of SDT judgments published online. We’re consistently ranked in Chambers & Legal 500, and have received a number of awards. If you’re still not sure, take a look at our testimonials page, or ask us to provide a reference.

Testimonials

'Robert Forman possesses a strong reputation within the legal services regulatory sector, due to his excellent track record defending legal professionals in SDT proceedings. He is also adept at helping firms avoid SRA intervention following solicitor misconduct. "Robert really understands the perspective and psychology of regulatory bodies. He gets what they will be concerned about and knows how to best represent your case in language they will respond to." "He provides very prompt and clear advice and is a good strategist." "He is an outstanding solicitor who provides very robust, thorough and empathetic advice."'  Chambers UK 2021

'Murdochs Solicitors' team is 'excellent in both the law and applying its knowledge'. The practice focuses almost exclusively on defending solicitors and other legal professionals facing regulatory investigations and disciplinary proceedings.' 'Director Nicholas Trevette regularly appears as an advocate at the SDT.' ' It was also apparent very quickly that they are experienced, really know their field and are experts.’ ‘The team are totally dedicated and their service is second to none. They provide excellent value for money. Nick Trevette is a leader in his field and achieves excellent outcomes in an expeditious fashion.’ ‘They are interested in you as individuals, as that in reality is what gives the firm its credence and respect.' Legal 500 UK 2021

Robert Forman in our team is a co-author of The Solicitor's Handbook editions 2019 and 2022. The Handbook provides expert and definitive commentary on law and practice in the Tribunal.

If you want us on your team, e-mail or speak to Andrew Blatt on 07973 752498, Robert Forman on 07976 562236 or Nick Trevette on 07976 795014.