Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Intervention Agents

We are pleased to have been appointed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) as one of four Intervention Agents acting on its behalf.

The SRA is responsible for the regulation of solicitors’ practices and solicitors across England and Wales and our role as Intervention Agent means that we are instructed to assist the SRA with the closure of firms through the Intervention Process.

The purpose of the Intervention Process is to ensure that public interests and the clients of the intervened firm are protected.

We appreciate that as a client affected by an unexpected closure of a law firm that you will have lots of questions, and it is hoped that the content below will help to provide a little more information about what has happened and what you should do next. Our role in the intervention process is to provide guidance and support for any clients affected by an intervention.

Should you have any queries please contact us at interventions@shma.co.uk.

Further information on interventions can also be found at the SRA’s website.

What is an intervention?

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has the power to close down a solicitor’s practice if it has reason to believe they are a risk to their clients or the public. This power is given to them by Parliament and it enables them to take from the firm documents and money and items that belong to clients. An intervened firm is completely closed down and it cannot continue to act for its clients.

As an intervention agent of the SRA, we visit the premises of the intervened law firm with an SRA officer to collect documents on the day of the intervention and receive critical information from the intervened solicitor. However, we do not continue the practice of the intervened firm; neither do we take over responsibility for payment of any trading debts.

Why has my solicitor’s firm been closed down?

As mentioned above, the SRA intervenes a law firm to protect the interests of the clients and the public. Intervention is a protective measure and it does not always mean that there is a finding of misconduct against a firm or an individual.

There are a number of reasons why the SRA may intervene a law firm including:

Protecting the interests of clients, former clients or potential clients

There is the suspicion of dishonesty on the part of someone at the firm

The only solicitor at the firm has been made bankrupt, been sent to prison or struck off the roll of solicitors and is no longer able to practice

The sole solicitor is seriously unwell and unable to close the practice in a controlled manner or the practice has been abandoned

There have been serious breaches of the SRA’s regulations

The reasons for each intervention into a law firm are summarised on the SRA’s website.

What happens once a firm has been intervened?

On an intervention we support the SRA in the collection of all documents, items and money belonging to the client that were previously controlled by the intervened solicitor. The SRA freeze the intervened firm’s  bank accounts and arrange for the funds to be transferred to the SRA.

Our team (or one of the other intervention agents) will be instructed to act for the SRA and take the firm’s papers so that they can be safely held. It is our role as an intervention agent to return the papers and money held to the people that they belong to.

We will attempt to contact all clients who have ongoing and current cases that were being handled by an intervened firm to tell them that the SRA have closed down their previous practice.

We work closely with the SRA’s archiving department to signpost previous clients who need to find a will, deed or other archived information such as a power of attorney etc.

We support the SRA by keeping safe the documents and money seized from an intervened firm until they are able to be returned to the appropriate owners.

In some situations such as the firm failing to keep adequate accounting records, or losing or destroying documents, it may not be possible to return files and money immediately. We will however work with clients to assist them in this situation.

What we cannot help you with in our role as an intervention agent

It is important to highlight that our role as intervention agent does not mean that we have taken over the business and running of the intervened law firm. This means that we are not responsible for employees or trade creditors of the intervened firm. To reiterate our role is only in respect of the clients of the intervened firm.

If you are a trade creditor of a firm that has been intervened then it is important to note that the trade debts remain with the intervened business. If you are having trouble collecting payments of a trade debt you should consider seeking independent legal advice and may also wish to speak to your insurer to see if you are covered for the loss.

If you were an employee of the intervened firm then it is important to note that your former employer remains liable to you for your salary, references and the issue of a P45. It is important to point out that the SRA and ourselves as intervention agents do not assume any rights or obligations in relation to your employment position. Should you be facing any issues in respect of collecting salary due, reference or the issue of a P45 we recommend that you seek independent legal advice, speak to your trade union if you are a member or contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.

What should I do if my legal work with the intervened solicitor was not finished?

If the firm that the SRA intervened was representing you on an ongoing legal matter that has not concluded, then you must instruct new solicitors to act on your behalf if you want to carry on with the case. It is important to understand that Shakespeare Martineau does not automatically act as your lawyer in your matter.

Our team have been instructed by the SRA to support with any emergency legal tasks, but you can choose any solicitor to carry on your case, unless it is publically funded by legal aid. In this case, we can only arrange for your file to be transferred to a firm of solicitors with a Legal Aid Agency franchise in the appropriate area of law. To find a solicitor please use The Law Society’s Find a Solicitor directory.

If a file has been recovered for you and you wish to instruct a new solicitor or have this file sent to you, then you should contact our team on 0300 247 2470 or email us at interventions@shma.co.uk.

We will ask you to complete and return a file request form to us which can be downloaded here. In the event that your file relates to a child, vulnerable person, trust, company or that you are acting as a deputy or as an attorney there may be some additional information that you will be required to provide.

If there are two or more of you named as clients then you will need to agree where the file should be sent before we can release it. You will need to provide some identification to our team and it will not cost you anything to have your documents sent.

If there is no time to instruct another firm to represent you, for instance you are due to complete on a house sale or purchase on the day of the intervention or the next day, then our team can act on your behalf on an emergency basis only.

We will do our best to identify all urgent cases as quickly as possible but if you have an urgent matter then it is important for you to contact us as quickly as possible on 0300 247 2470 or at interventions@shma.co.uk.

What has happened to the money my intervened solicitor was holding for me?

When a law firm is intervened the money held in the intervened firm’s bank accounts is transferred to the SRA. Either our team or the SRA will look at the intervened firm’s accounting records to try to work out who the money belongs to. It is our role to support the SRA to try to return any money the firm was holding for you.

If the intervened firm’s accounts are not in order then it can be difficult for us to work out exactly how much money is owed to clients and to which ones. For this reason it can take our teams some time to return your money.

If we are unable to return all or part of the money that you are owed because it has been lost or taken by the intervened firm, then you can apply to be reimbursed from the SRA’s Compensation Fund.

The SRA and our team cannot guarantee that you will get a grant from the compensation fund as you must prove that the intervened solicitor was holding your money and that you have or are likely to have suffered a financial loss.

You Can Find Out More Here

Where are my documents?

If you had an ongoing legal matter with the intervened firm and your files can be located then we will contact you to ask you what you would like to do with your papers.

If you have not heard from us yet and want to talk to us about your case then you can call us on 0300 247 2470 or email us at interventions@shma.co.uk.

In the event that you have found a new legal advisor to take over your matter then you can let us know where you would like us to send your papers. Our team support clients of intervened firms in terms of emergency work until they find another lawyer to conduct the legal work on their behalf.

How do I access an old closed file, will, deed or another record?

If your enquiry relates to a will, deed or another document of record that the intervened solicitors were holding for you then your file (if recovered) will be held at the SRA’s intervention archiving department.

We do not hold any files that relate to closed or completed cases, wills or deeds at our offices. These files are held at the SRA’s archiving department.

The SRA’s archiving department will be in touch to see what you would like to happen to your documents. If however, you have not heard from them yet then you can arrange to complete a file request form which can be accessed from the SRA’s website. Alternatively you can contact them at interventionarchivefile@sra.org.uk or telephone them on 0370 606 2555.

What is the difference between our role and that of an administrator?

The SRA acts in order to protect the interests of the clients of the firm and the public, whereas the administrator’s role is to deal with the company affairs of the intervened law firm.

What should I do if I owe money to the firm?

If you owe money to the firm for outstanding invoices, costs and disbursements then your liability to pay these is unaffected by the closure. You should not send the payment to the intervened firm.

You must send the payment to the SRA’s Agent instead so that we can deal with the SRA regarding any payment received. If you have a payment to make please call us on 0300 247 2470 or email us at interventions@shma.co.uk.

How do I raise a complaint about the service I received from the intervened solicitor?

If you have complaints regarding the service provided by a closed firm then you should contact the Legal Ombudsman directly. You will be able to find information regarding time limits on their website or by calling 0300 555 0333.

Please note for anything relating to a live instruction we encourage you to call us so that we can signpost you in the right direction.

Introducing the team

Let us help you

Our intervention team and wider firm of legal experts are well equipped to help in situations of intervention. Client needs are our priority, and we pledge to do our utmost to ensure smooth transitions of files, financials and client representation.

Call us now on 0300 247 2470 to speak with one of our experts. Or, you can email us at interventions@shma.co.uk.

Who we are

We are a full-service law firm, providing legal services to businesses, organisations, government departments, families and people throughout life and in business. But we offer so much more than that. Expertise, commerciality and relationships are at the very heart of what we do.

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