Why I am to be struck off
Regulator to charge retired solicitors for keeping their status
In just over two months from now, I shall cease to be a non-practising solicitor. My name is currently on the electronic roll kept by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which regulates solicitors in England and Wales. It records that I was admitted in 1976 and that I do not have a current practising certificate.
As it happens, I have never held a practising certificate. I have never practised as a solicitor. That was because I joined the BBC as a trainee journalist more than a year before I qualified.
For several years after that, I paid to keep my name on the roll. Perhaps I might have gone into practice. After a while, I decided that there was little point in keeping it up. The roll could not easily be inspected in those pre-internet days. Nobody knew what it looked like. I suspect it was more of a card index than a roll of parchment.
A few years ago, I decided to restore my name to the roll. I had heard that I was being nominated for appointment as an honorary QC and wrongly believed that a professional qualification was required. Since then, inertia has kept my name there.
Why, then, am I shortly to be struck off?
Earlier this week, I had a letter from the regulator. It was not unexpected. This is what it said:
The fee is £20. I think this is an annual charge, though that’s not clear. It may go up but — unlike some retired solicitors — I can well afford it. Why, then, have I decided not to pay?
First, I don’t believe that keeping my data online can cost the regulator as much as £20 a year. Why should I have to contribute towards the cost of regulating others? I would be prepared to pay a fee if I ever had to update my information — though that’s unlikely in my case as all they know about me is my name.
More importantly, though, there is a potential conflict of interest. People may not know that a regulator whose activities I occasionally write about has the power to strike me off. But it does; it will; and from 28 May I shall describe myself, if asked, as a former non-practising solicitor.
If I’m not allowed to do even that, I’m sure the regulator will let me know.
Update: A solicitor has suggested two me that a “former non-practising solicitor” could be one who was formerly non-practising but is now in practice. That sounds a bit legalistic to me, but perhaps I should think again.
Update 27 March: As Graham Dobson writes in the comments below, he took this issue up with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A customer services advisor at the regulator’s contact centre assured him that wiping his record on his death should not be seen as “evaporating” his career history:
I am not surprised he found this offensive.
Update 3 April: It turns out that the Solicitors Regulation Authority will not “wipe the record” while a solicitor remains alive. The regulator says it will “retain all admission credentials” so that a former solicitor can apply to be restored to the roll at any time.
Update 20 June: I received a further communication from the regulator on 12 June. I’m still on the roll but it’s not clear for how much longer. Separately, the regulator has rebutted my suggestion that the fee is excessive.
Update 24 July: I am no longer on the roll.
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