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Richard Esney

Director of Risk and Compliance

Richard is a solicitor (qualified 2002) and worked for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for 14 years prior to joining Harding Evans.

During his time at the SRA he worked exclusively on the Forensic Investigations team. This meant that he undertook onsite investigations of law firms. He has investigated all types of firms, from sole-practitioners to magic circle firms. His work took him all over the country.

Richard has a detailed knowledge of the SRA investigation frameworks and the rules applicable to law firms and their staff. He has vast experience of all aspects of law firm compliance, including:

  • Compliance with the SRA Codes of Conduct
  • SRA Accounts Rules
  • Anti-Money Laundering requirements
  • Detection and prevention of frauds

Richard was responsible for investigating issues and conducting regulatory interviews. If the evidence supported further action, he would be responsible for the preparation of a Forensic Investigation Report. This would often stand as the SRA’s evidence-in-chief at Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Richard has investigated a number of high profile matters involving law firms and their staff and has given evidence at SDT on a number of occasions.

His investigations have led to a number of interventions and he has considerable experience of liaising with the Police and other law enforcement agencies.

Richard was responsible for providing a variety of training to colleagues at the SRA, including identifying frauds and giving effective evidence at SDT.

Given the breadth of investigations in which he has been involved (more than 150) he has significant knowledge of the regulatory issues affecting law firms and how the regulator approaches potential breaches.

Richard’s role at Harding Evans keeps him busy, however he is able to consider instructions to advise law firms and their staff on SRA compliance issues, including providing training and advising/representing firms under investigation by the SRA. If you feel you could benefit from Richard’s knowledge and expertise, please get in touch.

AML Investigations

Reviewing compliance with the AML Regulations, including

  • ensuring due diligence has been undertaken
  • source of funds checks
  • Suspicious Activity Reports
  • firm wide risk assessments
  • client & matter risk assessments
  • ensuring staff monitoring
  • provision of training

Accounts issues

Common themes include

  • failure to undertake client account reconciliations
  • shortage of client funds
  • failure to issue bills in advance of transfer of costs or overcharging
  • retention of client money after conclusion of matter (residual balances)
  • Providing banking facilities


Issues often arise with rogue employees. Additionally, firms themselves can be the subject of frauds by clients or third parties. They types of issues include:

  • Staff (fee earners and support staff) accessing clients funds
  • Falsifying documents
  • Sham litigation

Conduct issues

The SRA Codes of Conducts (for firms and for solicitors) and the Principles create a heavy burden for firms. Breaches of these obligations can lead to regulatory action. Firms need to be mindful of the following:

  • Avoiding conflicts of interests and ensuring they have robust systems for the identification of potential conflicts (rule 6.1 & 6.2))
  • Maintaining client confidentiality (rule 6.3 & 6.4)
  • Co-operating with the SRA and other regulators (rule 7.3)
  • Notifying the SRA about relevant facts (rule 7.6 – 7.8)
  • Being open and honest with clients when things go wrong (rule 7.11)
  • Solicitor stole client money in excess of £1million by overcharging clients over a period of years. When clients queried, the solicitor would use money from other clients. Firm was intervened into – solicitor struck-off and sent to prison for 7 years.
  • Firm had failed to undertake client account reconciliations for a significant period of time. Their books of account were found to be completely unreliable and consequently it was impossible to re-construct the correct position. Other accounts issues were identified during the investigation. Firm was intervened into and solicitor was struck-off.
  • Solicitor falsified documents to make it appear that they had been filed at court. The reality was the document was not created until after the court deadline. Solicitor was found to have acted dishonestly and struck-off.
  • Experienced probate lawyer (unadmitted) stole money from estates over a period of over 20 years and across two different employers. She had made payments to herself and family members and manipulated the estate accounts to defraud beneficiaries. Section 43 Order made against her preventing her from working at a law firm.
  • Solicitor provided vulnerable client with her personal bank details for the payment of costs. Solicitor then denier ever receiving the money. Matter contested at SDT. Solicitor found dishonest and struck-off.
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