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Restoration to the Roll of Solicitors

Applications to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for restoration to the Roll are notoriously difficult.

Most former solicitors applying for restoration to the Roll have been struck off for dishonesty and the SDT will take account of the following statement by Sir Thomas Bingham MR in the Court of Appeal decision of Bolton v The Law Society [1994] 1WLR 512:

‘It often happens that a solicitor appearing before the Tribunal can adduce a wealth of glowing tributes from his professional brethren. He can often show that for him and his family the consequences of striking off or suspension would be little short of tragic. Often he will say, convincingly, that he has learnt the lesson and will not offend again. On applying for restoration after striking off all these points may be made, and the former solicitor may also be able to point to real efforts made to re-establish himself and redeem his reputation. All these matters are relevant and should be considered. But none of them touches the essential issue, which is the need to maintain among members of the public a well founded confidence that any solicitor whom they will instruct will be a person of unquestionable integrity, probity and trustworthiness… the reputation of the profession is more important than the fortunes of any individual member.’

Despite those comments, the Court of Appeal recognised in a 2006 case that exceptional circumstances might exist which would justify restoration to the Roll following a strike off, even after findings of dishonesty.

Applications for restoration to the Roll

A former solicitor wishing to apply for restoration should consider his or her position very carefully because the prospects of success are low and there is a risk of an adverse costs order if the application fails. If an applicant considers that there are exceptional circumstances, and wishes to proceed, the application for restoration to the Roll should be prepared with great care.

The applicant should, for example, ensure that the SDT is made aware of all mitigating circumstances relating to the original offence, including in particular any medical evidence relating to the mitigation. The SDT should also be provided with character references and given as much information as possible on rehabilitation.

An applicant would be well advised to carefully consider the case law as the case law does contain some helpful comments on the exceptional circumstances in which restoration might be granted. Although those comments are obiter and are not binding and although the SDT will always say that every application is different as each application turns on its facts, the comments of senior judges may have some persuasive weight.

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