What is a solicitor's undertaking?

The following Practice Compliance practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What is a solicitor's undertaking?
  • SRA definition
  • Distinguishing undertakings from non-enforceable promises
  • Normal contractual principles do not apply
  • Circumstances are more important than words
  • Undertakings are not limited to a solicitor’s normal practice
  • The solicitor does not need to intend to give an undertaking
  • It does not matter if the undertaking is impossible
  • Undertakings are important
  • Time for compliance
  • More...

What is a solicitor's undertaking?

An undertaking is a commitment by a solicitor to do something. It can be enforced against the solicitor by the courts. Failure to comply with an undertaking can also be professional misconduct leading to disciplinary action by the SRA or SDT.

This Practice Note explains what can constitute an undertaking. The court’s powers in relation to undertakings are explained in Practice Note: Undertakings and the court.

SRA definition

An undertaking is:

  1. a statement, given orally or in writing (whether or not it includes the word 'undertake' or 'undertaking')

  2. to someone who reasonably places reliance on it

  3. that you or a third party will do something or cause something to be done, or refrain from doing something

All these component parts must exist for an undertaking to arise.

Distinguishing undertakings from non-enforceable promises

Not every statement of intent or promise made by a solicitor is an undertaking. If this were the case, a promise to return a telephone call could be said to be an enforceable undertaking. In the vast majority of cases it will be obvious whether an undertaking has been given.

The difficulty is finding the line between an enforceable undertaking and a simple statement of

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