Define: Striking Off The Roll

Striking Off The Roll
Striking Off The Roll
Quick Summary of Striking Off The Roll

Striking off the roll refers to the process of removing a lawyer from the practice of law, typically as a result of disciplinary infractions. It entails the loss of the privilege to stand within the wooden barrier that separates the gallery from the actual courtroom and engage in legal proceedings. For instance, if a lawyer is found guilty of misconduct, such as embezzlement or perjury, they may face disbarment or be struck off the roll. Consequently, they are no longer permitted to practice law or represent clients in court. This example demonstrates how striking off the roll serves as a severe consequence for lawyers who breach ethical and professional standards. Its purpose is to safeguard the public from lawyers who engage in unethical conduct and uphold the integrity of the legal profession.

What is the dictionary definition of Striking Off The Roll?
Dictionary Definition of Striking Off The Roll

Being struck off the roll signifies that a lawyer is prohibited from practising law. This occurs when a lawyer commits a wrongdoing or violates the regulations. It is akin to being expelled from an exclusive club for lawyers. While it is typically permanent, there are instances where a lawyer can petition for reinstatement after a specified period of time. In England and Wales, the term “striking off the roll” is used to describe the expulsion of a solicitor.

Full Definition Of Striking Off The Roll

Striking off the roll is a significant disciplinary measure employed within the legal profession to maintain the integrity and ethical standards of the profession. This action involves removing a solicitor or barrister from the official register, effectively prohibiting them from practising law. This overview delves into the legal framework, procedures, and implications of striking off the roll, with a focus on the British legal context.

Legal Framework

In the United Kingdom, the legal profession is regulated by different bodies for solicitors and barristers. For solicitors, the primary regulatory body is the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), while the Bar Standards Board (BSB) regulates barristers. Both bodies have the authority to strike off members from their respective rolls under certain circumstances.

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA): The SRA operates under the Legal Services Act 2007, which outlines the regulatory objectives and principles that govern legal services. The SRA’s Handbook provides detailed rules and guidelines, including the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) Regulations.

Bar Standards Board (BSB): The BSB functions under the authority of the Bar Standards Board Handbook, which is derived from the Legal Services Act 2007. The Handbook sets out the Code of Conduct for barristers and the disciplinary procedures for breaches of professional standards.

Grounds for Striking Off

Striking off the roll is reserved for the most severe breaches of professional conduct. The grounds for such an action typically include:

  1. Dishonesty: Any act of dishonesty, whether related to professional activities or personal conduct, is a serious offence. This includes theft, fraud, or misrepresentation.
  2. Misappropriation of Funds: Mishandling or misappropriating client funds or trust money is a grave breach of trust.
  3. Criminal Conviction: Conviction for a criminal offence, particularly those involving dishonesty or moral turpitude, can lead to striking off.
  4. Professional Misconduct: Conduct that falls significantly below the standards expected of legal professionals, including breaches of confidentiality, conflicts of interest, or gross negligence.
  5. Incompetence: Severe incompetence that undermines public trust in the legal profession can also be grounds for striking off.

Disciplinary Procedures

The process of striking off the roll involves several stages, ensuring that the accused legal professional is afforded due process and the opportunity to defend themselves.

  1. Investigation: Upon receiving a complaint or discovering potential misconduct, the regulatory body initiates an investigation. This may involve gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing relevant documents.
  2. Referral to Disciplinary Tribunal: If the investigation reveals a prima facie case of serious misconduct, the matter is referred to the appropriate disciplinary tribunal – the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for solicitors or the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service (BTAS) for barristers.
  3. Hearing: The tribunal conducts a formal hearing where both the regulatory body and the accused legal professional can present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments. The accused has the right to legal representation.
  4. Decision: After considering the evidence and arguments, the tribunal issues a decision. If the tribunal finds that the allegations are proven and warrant striking off, it will order the removal of the individual from the roll.
  5. Appeal: The decision of the tribunal can be appealed to the High Court. The appeal process provides an additional layer of scrutiny to ensure fairness and justice.

Implications of Striking Off

Striking off the roll has profound implications for the affected individual, the legal profession, and the public.

For the Individual: Being struck off the roll effectively ends the legal career of the individual. They lose the right to practise law and must cease all legal activities immediately. This action also carries a significant reputational stigma, making it difficult for the individual to find employment in related fields.

For the Legal Profession: Striking off serves as a deterrent to other legal professionals, reinforcing the importance of adhering to ethical standards. It helps maintain public confidence in the legal profession by demonstrating that serious misconduct will not be tolerated.

For the Public: The primary purpose of striking off is to protect the public from unscrupulous or incompetent legal professionals. It ensures that those who seek legal services can trust in the integrity and competence of the practitioners they engage.

Case Studies

Examining specific cases can provide a deeper understanding of how the principles and procedures of striking off are applied in practice.

Case Study 1: Misappropriation of Client Funds In a notable case, a solicitor was struck off after it was discovered that they had misappropriated substantial sums of client money over several years. The SRA conducted a thorough investigation, uncovering evidence of deliberate and systematic misappropriation. The solicitor was referred to the SDT, which, after a detailed hearing, concluded that the solicitor’s actions were fundamentally dishonest and warranted striking off. The High Court upheld this decision on appeal, emphasizing the seriousness of the breach of trust.

Case Study 2: Criminal Conviction for Fraud A barrister was convicted of fraudulently claiming legal aid payments. Following the conviction, the BSB initiated disciplinary proceedings. The BTAS conducted a hearing and found that the barrister’s conduct was incompatible with the standards expected of the profession. The barrister was struck off the roll, and the decision was upheld on appeal, reinforcing the principle that criminal conduct undermines the integrity of the legal profession.

Case Study 3: Gross Incompetence In another case, a solicitor was struck off for gross incompetence after repeatedly failing to meet basic professional standards, resulting in significant harm to clients. The SRA’s investigation revealed a pattern of negligence and poor practice management. The SDT’s decision to strike off the solicitor was based on the need to protect the public and maintain the profession’s reputation. The High Court affirmed the decision, highlighting the importance of competence in legal practice.

Rehabilitation and Reinstatement

While striking off is intended to be a final measure, there are provisions for rehabilitation and reinstatement in exceptional circumstances.

Reinstatement Application: An individual who has been struck off can apply for reinstatement after a specified period, usually several years. The application must demonstrate that the individual has undergone significant rehabilitation, acknowledged their misconduct, and taken steps to address the issues that led to their striking off.

Reinstatement Hearing: The application for reinstatement is considered by the relevant tribunal, which conducts a thorough review of the individual’s conduct since being struck off. This may include evidence of rehabilitation, testimonials, and an assessment of the individual’s current suitability to practise law.

Decision: The tribunal decides whether to grant reinstatement based on the evidence presented. If reinstatement is granted, the individual is restored to the roll and can resume practising law, subject to any conditions imposed by the tribunal.

Conclusion

Striking off the roll is a critical mechanism for maintaining integrity, competence, and public trust in the legal profession. The process is governed by a robust legal framework and involves rigorous procedures to ensure fairness and justice. While the consequences for the affected individual are severe, the overarching aim is to protect the public and uphold the high standards expected of legal professionals. Through this disciplinary measure, the legal profession demonstrates its commitment to ethical conduct and professional excellence.

Striking Off The Roll FAQ'S

Being struck off the roll means that a lawyer is no longer allowed to practice law.

Any lawyer who has been found guilty of professional misconduct or has breached the rules of professional conduct can be struck off the roll.

The process for striking off the roll varies depending on the jurisdiction, but generally involves a hearing before a disciplinary committee or court.

Yes, a lawyer can appeal being struck off the roll.

The length of time it takes to be struck off the roll varies depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the case.

Yes, a lawyer can apply for reinstatement after being struck off the roll, but the process is often difficult and time-consuming.

The consequences of being struck off the roll include losing the ability to practice law, losing professional status, and potentially losing the ability to earn a living.

Yes, a lawyer can work in a related field after being struck off the roll, but they cannot practice law.

Being struck off the roll means that a lawyer is permanently removed from the legal profession, while being suspended means that a lawyer is temporarily barred from practicing law.

Yes, a lawyer can be struck off the roll for criminal behavior, especially if the behavior is related to their professional conduct.

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Disclaimer

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 8th June 2024.

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