Acting for buyer and seller – Can you? Should you?
The SRA says solicitors should not “generally” be acting for buyer and seller due to client conflict concerns. But is that correct?
At the recent SRA COLP & COFA conference (Your compliance queries session), there was a strong reminder from the SRA that law firms can rarely act for buyer and seller in conveyancing matters.
A delegate asked directly, “Can you act for buyer and seller if you have informed consent?”
The answer was a definite warning to conveyancing firms. “This is not generally a situation where you should act”.
This is not a new message, but it was quite forcefully put by the SRA Ethics representative.
The reasoning seems to be:
- Firms are unlikely to have enough in the way of measures to ensure acting for both parties at arms length; and
- Most cases are likely to involve an inherent conflict of interests between the buyer and seller. And without wanting to put words in their mouth, purely separating the fee earner and office, for example, is not enough to cure that conflict for the firm.
And yet, acting for buyer and seller in property transactions is not that unusual in practice. It is often at the client’s request, or perhaps because the clients are well known to the firm.
SRA Risk Outlook 2021-2022
The SRA Risk Outlook 2021-2022 (‘What is the new normal? Challenges and opportunities for law firms after the lockdowns’), was launched in time for the annual SRA Compliance Conference.
In this post we look at:
- What is the SRA Risk Outlook?
- What does it say?
- Who should read the report?
News and Guidance
Legal Services Board (LSB) Updates
- Consultation: Legal Services Board sets clear outcomes for regulators on lawyers’ ongoing competence: ‘Status quo is not best to protect the public interest’ – expect pressure on the SRA to reform the ‘continuing competence’ (self assessment) system.
- Consultation: Draft business plan 2022/23 – notably, the LSB is looking at the issue of unaffordable professional indemnity insurance (PII) and the impact that firm closures could have on access to justice and the cost of legal services.
- SRA Compliance Conference 2021: If you didn’t make it to the live event in Birmingham, the SRA has kindly provided recordings and bonus Q&A content on its YouTube channel. Highly recommended watching:
- Chatham House report: The UK’s kleptocracy problem – How servicing post-Soviet elites weakens the rule of law – A scathing indictment of professional enablers, making the UK a favoured destination for dirty money: “London has no shortage of lawyers, estate agents and wealth managers offering bespoke instruments for post-Soviet elites to hide their money and gain respectability. Individually, each of these service providers may facilitate a transaction that is legal and within established norms and codes of ethical conduct of these professions. But, although the coordination of enabling activities is usually not done through explicit joint intent, the services provided by the wealth manager, the estate agent and the PR adviser, as well as the welcome from ‘respectable’ UK individuals, complement each other and in many ways could not exist independently.”
- CIPD Guidance: Hybrid working – practical guidance – A useful document, which covers:
- People management
- Recruitment and induction
- Inclusion and fairness
- Health, safety and wellbeing
It’s the final countdown of 2021 – our round-up of hot topics past, present and future
A few places remain for our 2021 wrap-up. BOOK NOW to secure your spot.
- A re-cap on all the important compliance issues you should have paid attention to in 2021
- A look forward to the hottest topics for 2022
- And of course we will be answering any burning questions you may have!
- Keyvan Zamanpour – suspended for six months for failing to report his paralegal’s £670k theft from the firm’s client account for fear of SRA intervention. A rare dishonesty case which did not result in a strike off.
- Peter Miller – fined £2,000 for acting in a conflict situation in a property transaction.
- Sheeba Eeswaramoorthy and Amar-Ul Haq – COFA and partner fined £1,400 each for Accounts Rules breaches.
- Geoffrey Rushton – struck off for misappropriating client money.
- Sam Themis – struck off for failing to keep accounting records and making unauthorised client account transactions.
- Michelle Ryan – secretary ‘struck off’ (Section 43 order) for the relatively mundane offence of misleading the HR department about her holiday allowance.
- Rhodri Griffiths – rebuked following drink driving conviction.
- John Pursley – struck off for backdating documents.
- And spare a thought for Liz Ellen, a former City sports lawyer who was cleared of any professional wrongdoing, but was landed with the SRA’s £500k costs bill. The moral of the story being don’t be unlucky enough to be wrongly pursued by the regulator.