The Solicitors Regulation Authority has gone back on the trail of firms failing to meet transparency requirements, with details of three fines published in a single day.
The latest round of penalties includes the largest fine issued related to non-compliance with transparency rules. Achom and Partners, based in north London, was ordered to pay £3,500 and £600 in costs after failing to publish mandatory details about its costs for motoring offences and its complaints procedure, and failing to display the SRA’s digital badge on its website.
It was also found to have failed to respond to the SRA’s letters and emails setting out the deficiencies with its website and by failing to remedy the same.
The firm must now, as a condition of its authorisation, publish all information required under transparency rules in a clear way and in a ‘prominent’ place on its website. Evidence of this being put into practice must be provided to the SRA within 30 days of this condition coming into effect.
The regulator also announced that east London firm Archstone Solicitors had been fined £1,600 and ordered to pay £600 costs for failing to publish costs details, the complaints procedure and the SRA’s digital badge. It also failed to promptly remove its former website when requested to do so by the SRA.
Archstone had also been fined £800 in 2021 after failing to provide a declaration on time that it had a complaint anti-money laundering firm-wide risk assessment.
Finally, A&T Legal Limited (trading as Leaside Law), also based in east London, must pay a £2,000 fine and £600 costs for failing to publish costs and complaints information and failing to display the SRA badge.
In all three of the latest cases, fines were issued in October or November but published yesterday.
SRA transparency rules came into effect in December 2018 and require all regulated firms to display specified information on their websites on costs for certain services, the experience of fee earners and details of how to complain. Firms must also display the SRA badge to prove they are a regulated entity.
The regulator says the transparency rules are designed to ensure people have accurate and relevant information about a solicitor or firm when they are considering purchasing legal services, and to help members of the public and small businesses make informed choices, improving competition in the legal market.
Source: The Law Society Gazette, 20th January 2023