On 17 April 2024, the Solicitors Regulation Authority in England and Wales (the SRA) and a personal injury solicitor, reached an agreement regarding the outcome of an investigation by the SRA.

On 18 October 2021, the solicitor, who was representing a client in a personal injury litigation, was emailed two different settlement offers by the opposing solicitors. He did not inform nor advise his client of the two settlement offers and proceeded to reject both offers without receiving instructions from his client.

According to the decision by the SRA, acting without instructions from a client resulted in the solicitor failing “to act in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession and in legal services provided by authorized persons”. The failure to obtain instructions further resulted in the solicitor misleading the opposing solicitors and breaching the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors.

The SRA regarded the following as mitigating factors when reaching its decision:

The solicitor stated that his actions did not cause any actual loss as his client advised him that they did not want to accept either offer in any event.

He stated that at the time of rejecting the offers, he was experiencing personal circumstances which may have impacted his judgment.

There was a low risk of the solicitor repeating this conduct as he has no prior transgressions with the regulator.

The SRA decided that a written rebuke was the appropriate outcome because:

The solicitor’s actions were reckless as there was a chance that his client might have accepted either offer.

It was necessary to uphold the public’s confidence in legal services.

The solicitor had the necessary experience and should have known that giving information which is inaccurate is misleading.

The SRA further decided that in line with transparency, it was necessary to publish the settlement agreement. The decision stated that the solicitor would be subjected to disciplinary action if he denies the admissions in the agreement or acts inconsistently with it.

This decision by the SRA reflects the importance of legal professionals to only act on the instructions of a client. Failure to do so can be harmful to the client as well as misleading and result in wasted costs. When reaching a decision, legal practitioners should always act in a way that upholds the trust and confidence of the public.