The SAS 2021 Annual General Meeting

The SAS Annual General Meeting took place on Thursday, 17 June 2021. As the country is still in lockdown it was held remotely by zoom.

The AGM was attended by many of the Panel Members who specialise in defending solicitors on SRA investigations and SDT proceedings and regularly provide assistance to solicitors in need.

This report provides a brief summary of the seminar topics and the Committee appointments.

The QCs' Update

Gregory Treverton-Jones QC of 39 Essex and Geoffrey Williams QC of Farrar’s Building provided an update on current trends in solicitors disciplinary proceedings.

Geoff Williams started the seminar by providing a commentary on the current law relating to exceptional circumstances in dishonesty cases, the tactics for protecting solicitor-respondents facing serious allegations from the potential disadvantages of remote hearings and the most recent case law on a solicitor’s obligation not to mislead the court.

That was followed by Greg Treverton-Jones who provided an update on the current case law relating to sexual misconduct cases and the current law on circumstances in which breaches of the rules do not amount to professional misconduct and should not result in disciplinary findings against solicitors.

The Law Society President

The President of the Law Society, Stephanie Boyce, provided a summary of some of the matters which she is addressing during the period of her Presidency including the important issue of the mental health and well-being of solicitors.

The CEO of Law Care

Elizabeth Rimmer, the Chief Executive Officer of Law Care, provided the AGM with a summary of current trends identified by Law Care, including concerns relating to the effect of solicitors’ working practices on mental health issues and the difficulties faced by solicitors when they are unable to obtain representation for SRA investigations and SDT proceedings. She highlighted the emphasis Law Care is placing on the need to identify working practices which lead to mental health issues and the Charity’s concern to ensure that Law Care does not simply “put sticking plaster” over problems as they arise. To that end, Law Care is currently carrying out research relating to “Life in the Law” in order to help promote effective working practices.

Law Care is a charity which provides information and support to anyone in the legal community experiencing mental health and well being problems. Their website is at https://www.lawcare.org.uk

The CEO of The Solicitors' Charity

Nick Gallagher, the Chief Executive Officer of the Solicitors’ Charity, provided a summary of the current assistance provided by the Solicitors Charity to solicitors in financial difficulty. He highlighted the fact that over the past year 71% of the solicitors in need of financial assistance have come from small firms or were sole practitioners, and two thirds of the solicitors were under 50 years old. In consequence the assistance provided by the Solicitors’ Charity now includes assistance of the type required by younger solicitors attempting to return to work including help with preparation of CVs, interview training and financial assistance where appropriate for the purchase of personal IT equipment needed in order to secure re-employment.

The Solicitors Charity supports solicitors in time of need and provides financial assistance and access to emotional and practical support. Their website is at https://thesolicitorscharity.org/

The President of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal 

Ed Nally, the President of the SDT, provided a very informative talk on Tribunal procedures and practice, including the use of remote and hybrid hearings, the change in the Tribunal’s rules relating to the standard of proof from the criminal standard to the civil standard, the Tribunal’s regard to the mental health issues faced by some respondents, and the current position on the law on costs and in relation to sexual misconduct cases.

The Chief Executive of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal

Geraldine Newbold, the Tribunal Clerk and Chief Executive, provided a helpful summary of the Tribunal’s current practices relating to remote and hybrid hearings.

The AGM

The following Committee Members were re-elected:

Linda Lee (RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP): Chairperson

Gareth Edwards (Kim Collings Solicitors)

Andrew Blatt (Murdochs)

Nigel West (RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP)

Richard Nelson (Richard Nelson LLP)

David Taylor (Hanne & Co)

David Barton (David Barton Solicitor Advocate)

David Morgan (retired; founder member of SAS)

SAS Members 

The following SAS members attended the AGM:

Jayne Willetts - Jayne Willetts & Co

David Barton – David Barton Solicitor Advocate

Susanna Heley – RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP

Richard Nelson – Richard Nelson LLP

Jonathan Greensmith – Keystone Law Ltd

Gareth Edwards - Kim Collings Solicitors

Andrew Blatt - Murdochs

Robert Forman - Murdochs

Jonathan Goodwin – Jonathan Goodwin Solicitor Advocate Ltd

Christian Eagle – Ralli Solicitors

Linda Lee – RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP

Steve Roberts - Richard Nelson LLP

Nick Trevette - Murdochs

Angela Davies – A M Davies

James Saunders – Saunders & Partners LLP

Glyn Maddocks – Gabb & Co

Mohammed Afzal – HMA Law Solicitors Ltd

Nigel West – RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP