Are you going to the SRA’s Compliance officer conference next week?
It’s a golden opportunity to ask the regulator those burning questions, or to simply get something off your chest. Very cathartic. Don’t worry if you can’t make it though, we will summarise any important takeaway points over the coming weeks.
Lisa has been looking at complaints handling this week – always a hot topic. A link to her blog is below.
MLROs should pay particular attention to the national risk assessment published by the government this week (see below).
As we approach its 10-year anniversary, we have highlighted some very interesting reading on the impact of the Legal Services Act. We have also linked to our slide deck on potential ABS models (based on what we see on a daily basis) – the commercial possibilities of ABS are really only limited by your imagination. Have we missed any obvious models?
Until next time,
Jon and the team
Top tips to avoid and deal with complaints
Read Lisa Charles’ top tips on how to avoid complaints, and effectively deal with those grumbles that do manage to slip through the net.
National AML risk assessment published
The Treasury and Home Office have jointly published their joint AML risk assessment. In summary:
- The legal professions continue to be attractive to money launderers, but not terrorist financiers
- The highest risk areas are:
- trust and company formation
- client account services
- Criminals may try to “add layers of complexity” by combining legal services or “compartmentalising” work between firms
- Innovation in legal services may present new opportunities for criminals
- The number of Suspicious Activity Reports submitted by lawyers has fallen by 10%
Why it matters
The new Money Laundering Regulations (in force from June 2017) require firms to consider the national risk assessment when assessing their exposure to money laundering, and their responses to to that risk. You should review your firm-wide risk assessment now.
The SRA should perhaps also consider whether its programme of regulatory reform, and innovation-at-all-cost, increases the risk of money laundering…
We’ve noticed a number of recent cases at the SDT relate to solicitors who have forged signatures. What on earth were they thinking? One is the case of Nicholas Usiskin, a solicitor with 35 years experience, who falsely signed witness statements in order to meet a statement exchange deadline. Another is Lesley Layton, a solicitor with 10 years PQE who created two witness statement onto which the signature of the witness had been copied from another document, misleading the opposing side and the Court. Nicholas Uskin was suspended for between 6-9 months and Lesley Layton agreed to be struck off the roll.
Why it matters
What drives solicitors to take such action? Both these solicitors were experienced and no doubt knew what they were doing was wrong. A common factor in both cases is that the solicitors were anxious to keep to court deadlines. The pressure of litigation can be intense. Who hasn’t been tempted?
Holiday Sickness Fraudsters Jailed
After falsely seeking compensation for holiday sickness, Deborah Britton was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment and her partner Paul Roberts was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by Liverpool Crown Court. Brought by Thomas Cook, this is the first private prosecution of its kind.
Why it matters
A sign of things to come? Are we going to see genuine claimants discouraged by tour operators’ threats of prosecution? If nothing else, this decision will no doubt have emboldened defendants, who already have leading figures in Parliament on their side.
It also doesn’t reflect well on the legal profession. One could argue that the lawyers could and should have made more thorough investigations. A simple social media check would have revealed Facebook posts saying they had enjoyed their holiday. In a fixed costs world, will this level of investigation even be viable?
10 years of the Legal Services Act 2007
Can you believe that on the 30th October 2017 it will be the 10th Anniversary of the Legal Service Act 2007? Tesco Law may not have materialised (yet), but the impact of the LSA2007 should not be underestimated.
Our recommended reading this week is a series of blogs by Kinglsey Napley, which look at the history and impact of LSA2007 on the profession.
You might also be interested in our slide deck, in which we set out a range of potential ABS models based on our experience.
Best of the rest
- Lesley Layton agreed to be struck off the roll. She admitted to acting dishonestly by causing witness statements to be sent with copied signatures and then denying doing so when questioned by the other side.
- Peter Phillip Taylor was struck off the roll following a conviction in April of 2016 of taking a total of £370,000 from the estates of two vulnerable clients.
- Nicholas Usiskin was suspended from practice as a solicitor for a period of 9 months for signing a statement of truth in three separate witness statements purporting to the client and witnesses and misleading the Defendant and the Court.
- Anthony Foot was rebuked and fined £500 by the SRA following a conviction for driving with excess alcohol and for driving a motor vehicle dangerously.
- Babatunder Ojo was rebuked and fined £2000 for acting in a conveyancing matter through an unregulated business.
- Howard Gruber was rebuked for making payments from his client account where there was no underlying transaction.