The majority of applications are made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”) on behalf of the Law Society and are conducted by in-house solicitors and barristers employed by the SRA or by solicitors in private practice selected from panels maintained by the SRA.
Sometimes the SRA authorises its solicitors to instruct barristers to appear on their behalf at the hearing.
Any person can make an application direct to the Tribunal. A person making such an application is called a “Lay Applicant”.
It is essential to note that the Tribunal does not have any powers of investigation, nor does it collect evidence to support or oppose an application. The Tribunal cannot award compensation. Ordinarily the Tribunal will expect a Lay Applicant to have first sent their complaint or to have made a report to the SRA, which does have powers of investigation and can collect evidence.
If an application by an individual is made direct to the Tribunal, it can refer the application to the SRA. In such a case the SRA will take whatever steps it considers to be appropriate, which might include investigation or submitting its own application to the Tribunal.
Time and expense will be saved for the Lay Applicant if the complaint is reported to the SRA and the SRA is given an opportunity to investigate and reach a decision on the complaint before making a Lay Application to the Tribunal.
Applications to the Tribunal must be made in the prescribed form supported by a statement setting out the allegations and the facts and matters supporting the application and each allegation made. Documents referred to in the statement should be exhibited to it.
If the application is being brought by more than one Lay Applicant, it is possible to use the same application form. Each Applicant must sign the application form or provide confirmation in writing that they are making a joint application. Each Applicant must also confirm that they consent to the Tribunal communicating with the lead Applicant(s) on their behalf.
- The Tribunal does not have any powers of investigation, nor does it collect evidence to support or oppose a Lay Application. Anyone who makes a Lay Application is responsible for investigating and collecting evidence, for completing the application form, a Statement under Rule 12 Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceeding) Rules 2019 (“SDPR”) and exhibiting the supporting evidence to the Statement. If the Lay Application is certified as showing a case to answer by the Tribunal under Rule 13 SDPR, the Tribunal sends the Lay Application, Statement, and supporting documents to the solicitor named in the application, who becomes the Respondent. If the Lay Application is not certified as showing a case to answer, the only remedy is by means of appeal against that decision to the High Court.
- The solicitor may decide to appoint their own solicitor or barrister or another representative to act on his behalf.
- The Lay Applicant is responsible for presenting the case to the Tribunal. This involves providing witness statements and documents, preparing bundles of documents and telling the Tribunal about the case at an oral hearing. The Lay Applicant may have to ask witnesses questions and cross-examine the Respondent solicitor and witnesses called to give evidence on their behalf. The Tribunal reaches a decision on the evidence it reads and hears.
- Please note that the application must be in the prescribed form available on the website. It must be supported by a statement setting out the allegations and the facts and matters supporting the application and each allegation contained in it. The statement must contain a Statement of Truth and be signed and dated. The application, the statement and any documents exhibited to them must be sent to the Tribunal with three additional copies and a further copy for every second or further Respondent.