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Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Law and Practice – foreword

Nigel West and Susanna Heley, both partners at RadcliffesLeBrasseur, are co-authors of a book about the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT), published by the Law Society.

Here is the foreword to the book, written by Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunals

The public expects very high standards of service, expertise, and of course probity from members of the legal profession. And that is as it should be. Lawyers play a large and essential part in ensuring the rule of law, and the rule of law is fundamental to a modern, civilised, democratic society. And, because the law inevitably reflects conditions in society, the increasingly complex and fast-changing nature of the world in which we live has inevitably led to increasingly complex and fast-changing laws. This means that people, whether individuals, governments, institutions or other entities, need competent legal advice and representation more than they ever did. It also means that the demands on lawyers are greater than they have ever been.

It is no doubt partly as a result of these developments that regulation of the legal profession has become increasingly complex, formal and technical. Another more general reason (which may have the same cause) for this state of affairs is the increased demand for regulation generally. There is of course room for argument whether the present regulatory environment has achieved the right balance. But, for present purposes, the important point is that increases in the quantity, detail and complexity of regulation inevitably lead to an increasingly demanding, detailed and complex system of enforcement, in other words of disciplinary procedures. To this must be added our ever more nuanced notions of procedural fairness and our developing ideas of what constitutes a fair hearing.

All these developments inevitably result in the body which is responsible for enforcing disciplinary procedures for the solicitors’ profession, the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal, needing a detailed and sophisticated set of powers, rules and practices. It is vital in terms of the public interest and only fair to all those involved in the SDT’s processes, that a full, accurate and authoritative guide to the SDT’s powers, rules, practices is available in an accessible, readable and clear book. I am glad to be able to report that this has been achieved by the authors of Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunals. Accordingly, I unhesitatingly welcome the publication of this book, and all those involved in its conception, writing and publication are to be thanked and congratulated.

The structure of the book is logical and accessible, and the coverage is comprehensive in that it extends to all aspects of the functions of the SDT. The book rightly concentrates on procedural issues, including a chapter on the decision to prosecute, and practical guidance on issues such as disclosure, evidence and appeals, all of which it deals with very well. However, it does not stint in also dealing fully and clearly with the centrally relevant substantive matters, especially dishonesty cases and types of misconduct.

For anyone actually or potentially involved in a Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal matter, this book would often be essential, and would always be very helpful.

Lord Neuberger
President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
3rd November 2015

To obtain a copy of the book or to find out more, please contact:

Nigel West
0207 227 7232

Susanna Heley
0207 227 7463