Financial stability – an objective tool
We have been thinking a lot about law firm financial stability recently. It is a sad fact that many firms are struggling.
Financial stability has always been a huge risk area, and there comes a point where you have to involve your regulator – however uncomfortable that may be.
But where exactly is that point? And how can we avoid the common pitfall of being so concerned about the SRA, that we lose sight of the bigger picture?
It is far too easy to convince ourselves that there are reasons not to report. Human nature, in fact.
We’ve had a go at putting together a simple 3-Tier objective tool for you to incorporate into your own practice.
Each tier gives example trigger points and required actions.
Because it is objective, putting in place a framework like this should take away the agonising over whether this or that is reportable.
Brexit and Registered European Lawyers – FAQs
The Registered European Lawyer (REL) regime will end on 31 December 2020.
Unfortunately, the SRA has not been very clear about the practical implications of RELs becoming Registered Foreign Lawyers (RFLs).
We’ve had lots of questions from European firms, so have put together some plain language guidance.
Rachael joins as our Head of Regulatory Services. She becomes our technical lead and font of knowledge, adding a deep understanding of data protection and AML.
JBL clients will be hearing a lot more from Rachael over the coming weeks…
Don’t forget – SRA practising renewal extended to 20 November
“Teething trouble” with a new IT system is being blamed for the absolute farce that is the 2020 renewal season. But don’t worry, no doubt the SRA will be lenient with you when your new accounting software messes up the books, or your systems get hacked.
Just blame the computer.
LSB gives SQE the green light
The new route to qualification completely overhauls the current system, replacing it with a centralised exam and two years work experience.
The new regime goes live in September 2021, with the LPC and training contract being phased out gradually.
Law Society and SRA Transparency Webinar
Our team recently attended the Law Society webinar “Playing by the price transparency rules – how do I make my website compliant and stand-out from the competition?”.
You can read our overview of the main take-aways here.
In the second part of this blog, we look at what steps to take to make your website stand out. Dave Seager’s 10 point plan is so actionable that we just had to share it. (With permission, of course).
Law Society practice notes
- Closing down your practice: regulatory requirements
- Do litigation firms have to carry our customer due diligence?
- How do I deal with a client complaint against a barrister?
Pro bono week
“The ethics of pro bono”, by Professor Stephen Mayson
A succinct blog post which questions the nature of “ethics” and its relationship to rules and professional regulation. The terms are too often used interchangeably.
Question of the week
“Am I conflicted if I act for one of two shareholders in dispute, when I previously acted for them both at the time of drafting the shareholders agreement?”
Massive caveat: conflict scenarios are always fact-dependent. But in principle, this situation does not necessarily put you into a conflict.
Fundamentally, you only have one current client (one of the shareholders) and so a client conflict cannot exist. Unless there are any indicators of own interest conflict (e.g. you are trying to cover your tracks of poor advice), on the face of it you should be able to continue.
However, there are plenty of reasons you may very sensibly decide to bow out.
For a start, there is a high risk that you will get into a pickle around confidential information. A confidentiality “conflict” happens when you are unable to tell your current client something relevant about your old client, because your duty of confidentiality to the old client survives the retainer. As a fundamental principle, if you cannot act in your current client’s best interests, you cannot act.
You are also likely to face a bit of flak from your opposite number. They may well kick up a fuss about the too-close-for-comfort situation, perhaps for strategic reasons. In turn, costs will increase unnecessarily for both sides. Would it be in your client’s best interests to go elsewhere?
And don’t forget the smell test. Plenty of firms would gladly walk away from any situation that has even the hint of a conflict. This largely depends on your attitude to risk and whether there are any reputation implications.
Disciplinary decisions (the SDT has been busy)
- Robert David Bradley Fitzgerald-Crisp – a former Travers Smith trainee (who didn’t qualify), banned from the profession for dishonesty. Cryptically, all the SRA decision tells us is that he “took steps to mislead his colleagues regarding an email he sent to his employer’s IT department“. Dishonesty is a strict liability offence for solicitors.
- Anjan Patel – struck off despite his “genius level talent” (his words) for trying to intimidate an SRA official, and settling a costs claim without instructions. Truly genius.
- Biplab Kumar Poddar – suspended (indefinitely) for allowing a large fee to tempt him to facilitate dubious international transactions, ignore AML laws and act as a banker.
- Petros Petrou and Stylianos Petrou – brothers and partners of the Petrou Law Partnership sanctioned for overcharging estates to the tune of £225,000. The former was struck off, the latter suspended for a year for being slightly less culpable.
- Paul Michael Ireland – fined £10,000 for “losing control” of his client account. Hardly surprising when investigators found there were almost no bookkeeping systems in place – not even client ledgers. Good luck with that!
- Nicholas St John Gething – struck off for altering dates of charges on two Companies House submissions with Tipp-Ex, after having missed the 21 day registration deadline.
- Louise Clair Johal – escapes sanction for acting negligently by filing unsigned witness statements without instructions. “Not all mistakes are misconduct“, was the message from the SDT. Can someone make sure the SRA gets the memo?