Sexism and the SRA: what should be done in the case of Charlotte Proudman and Alexander Carter-Silk?

Charlotte Proudman, the barrister who received a LinkedIn message from Alexander Carter-Silk (which he himself described as “probably… politically incorrect”), having already complained to his firm, Brown Rudnick, now intends to refer Mr Carter-Silk to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) unless she receives a full apology.

If a report is received, the SRA is likely to consider whether the following Principles have been breached:

  • Principle 2 - to act with integrity;
  • Principle 6 - to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services; and/or
  • Principle 9 - to run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity.

Chapter 2 of the Code of Conduct also places an obligation on the firm, as well as on the individual, to encourage respect for diversity, which includes sex. The SRA may therefore consider whether the firm’s equality and diversity policy is adequate and whether they provided sufficient training to management and employees.

Whilst it is possible that correspondence through LinkedIn may not constitute ‘professional dealings’ as per the Code of Conduct, there is specific guidance in the Code which states that Principles 2 and 6 can be breached outside the workplace, or by behaviour in a solicitor’s private life.

One wonders if, in circumstances such as these, and following an apology from Mr Carter-Silk and the firm, it is necessary to involve them both in a potentially expensive SRA investigation.