2017…The Running Man year – wow, that crept up on us!
Well, here we are, and the wheels of regulation show no signs of slowing down. So what’s on the horizon this year?
Quick answer: lots.
We are expecting new SRA reform to come thick and fast in 2017. We may get the new SRA rule book this year – OFR 2.0. Progress with the new solicitor qualification regime is likely to continue (bye bye, LPC?). Most firms will be going through their first year under ‘Continuing Competence’, and getting to grips with reflection, planning and evaluating. The regulators will start putting measures into place to improve price, service and quality transparency in response to the CMA’s recent report. The Money Laundering Regulations are being overhauled. We will get closer to implementation of the new Data Protection legislation. The SRA and Law Society could officially part ways, and we may even get a review of the entire legal services regulation framework.
And that’s not even taking into account the B-word.
Until next time,
Chaos at the Law Society
The year started with the shock resignation of Catherine Dixon as CEO of the Law Society.
Why is it important?
Sadly, it comes as no surprise that Chancery Lane has become ‘moribund, old fashioned and bureaucratic’, in the words of the out-going CEO. Governance and decision-making issues – a recurring theme at the Law Society – apparently made her work impossible.
It is a huge shame that the profession’s main representative body has come to this. And at a time when the justice system and professionalism are under attack from all sides.
A real concern for The Law Society looms in the longer term. What happens when the SRA gains its independence and membership all of a sudden becomes voluntary? Who is going to pay for membership of a failing organisation?
Although, as Neil Rose points out, this loss of guaranteed income might actually rejuvenate Chancery Lane and help it become more relevant. We certainly hope so. The profession desperately needs a strong, independent representative body.
Report warns of continued cybercrime threats
Cybercrime accounted for some £7m of client losses in 2016, according to a recent report by the SRA. ‘Friday afternoon fraud’, IT hacks and social engineering remain the biggest threats to law firms.
Why is it important?
If your firm hasn’t been targeted yet, you are probably in the minority. Every week we hear war stories from our clients about fraud attempts. And as time goes by, so the fraudsters become more sophisticated. It is becoming more difficult to separate the genuine email from the clone. We also see criminals playing the long game – getting to know firms, their systems and staff. When they spot the weakest link, that is when the con starts.
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: knowledge and vigilance are your best defences. Make sure everyone is aware of the threat, the warning signs and who to alert. Share examples of cloned emails and other attempts. PII underwriters will no doubt continue to require more information about firms’ cybercrime systems.
A culture of fear?
Why is it important?
Many of us have been there and have the scars to prove it.
Is there a culture of fear in the profession? Are we overloading our junior lawyers in the name of productivity, to the detriment of clients and staff wellbeing?
The last paragraph in John Hyde’s article in the Gazette sums it up:
Young solicitors should not be working in fear.”
Does your firm has a ‘no blame’ culture of openness and support? Would your lawyers own up to mistakes? Better still, will they ask for help before problems get out of hand? There is more to supervision than checking documents. It also involves making sure your team is coping with their workload.
Other notable disciplinary decisions
- Solicitor struck off for hiding proceeds of sale from lender
- Failure to supervise light-fingered cashier results in hefty fines for partners
- Convicted fraudster unsurprisingly struck off
- Strike off for solicitor who disappeared after transferring £58,000 of client money without authorisation and without any bookkeeping records
- PI solicitor suspended for five years for failing to pay professional disbursements
- COFA fined £7,500 for failing to pay professional disbursements
- Solicitor with 40-year unblemished career, fined £7,500 for backdating TR1 to keep client happy