The Practical Lawyer

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Paying disbursements – without delay

The senior partner of a law firm which withheld paying professional disbursements and costs has been suspended. The firm failed to pay costs and disbursements to organisations such as chambers, counsel and medical experts. The Accounts Rules require costs to be sent on within two days of receipt. In some cases, these payments were not made for months and even years. The partner in question was the compliance officer. She said that she had relied on others in her firm to manage client and office accounts effectively. She had not been told about the failed payments, but presumably, she had also not looked at or inspected the accounts. 
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Brexit – Law Society guidance

The uncertainty regarding Brexit continues. Practitioners are reminded that the Law Society has produced and regularly updates guidance for lawyers in relation to this issue, including no deal guidance on:
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SRA – assessing capacity

Whether a client or prospective client has mental capacity can be a difficult judgement and the SRA has issued some guidance. Section 1 MCA 2005 provides that a person is assumed to have mental capacity until the contrary is proved. A practitioner should carry out an assessment of capacity before agreeing to start or continue work if they have reason to believe that the client may lack capacity. They should consider: 
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Lacking capacity – SRA guidance

In the run up to the introduction of the standards and regulations on 25 November 2019, the SRA is issuing guidance on its website on various issues affecting regulated practitioners. It is fair to say that the guidance is somewhat overdue as the SRA has removed much of the existing guidance from the codes. A recent addition is guidance on representing people who lack mental capacity.
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Probate fee increase – scrapped

The government has decided to shelve reforms which would have seen some estates liable for probate fees of up to £6,000 to apply for a grant.
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Socialising with colleagues – a thing of the past?

 It is not the role of The Practical Lawyer to judge. But firms would be well advised to re-visit their attitude to lawyers socialising with each other following a recent high-profile case of the City lawyer (from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer) who left his job following the SDT’s finding that he has acted without integrity when he engaged in sexual activity with a junior female colleague. 
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Cyber-attack – the basics

We reported in our June 2019 edition (p4) on some of the issues faced by law firms and the steps that can be taken to try to mitigate the risk. The insurer, Aon, reports that in 2017 61% of law firms have been victims of cyber-crime, cyber-attack or data breach. The key reasons are the combination of the sensitive information held by firms and the sums of money held in client account. The motive for this crime is money – whether stealing what is held in client account or the demand of a ransom.
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Costs – challenge promptly

Litigation solicitors will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief to note that a costs judge has refused a claimant’s application to challenge a solicitor’s bill that was agreed and approved over four years ago. Carter-Ruck solicitors submitted a bill of £340,000 to their client in December 2014 for successful work in relation to a claim against a bank. The facts are complex but the central issue is that the bill of costs was fully itemised and was authorised by the claimant in relation to a conclusion from which he benefitted as the claimant received $500,000 in settlement of his claim and Carter-Ruck was separately paid its £340,000 in costs directly.
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Costs – no comparison

The HC has determined an interesting application relating to costs in an injunction case. The HC refused the claim by Monex for an injunction and decided that the costs against Monex should be assessed summarily. The defendant’s costs were over £85,000 as compared to the claimant’s costs of £44,669. This stark comparison was the central plank of the claimant’s argument as to why they should not have to meet the defendant’s costs in full, which the claimant argued were ‘unreasonably high’.
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Prorogation – unlawful

While we make a point of only reporting on changes to practice that are in force, it is impossible to let this month’s edition pass without mentioning the Supreme Court decision which held that the attempted prorogation of Parliament was unlawful and was thus null and of no effect. Prorogation marks the end of a parliamentary session and brings to an end nearly all parliamentary business including existing Bills going through the Commons. This is what we thought had happened until the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision. This means that Parliament is still in session and so the Bills that we thought were dead may still hit the statute book soon including:
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LPAs – gifts by attorneys
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
Giving attorneys the power under an LPA to make gifts to others and themselves can invalidate it, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has ruled in a test case. The law limits the power of... Read more...
VAT and disbursements – Law Society guidance
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
The Law Society has issued a detailed new practice note ‘VAT Treatment of Disbursements and Expenses’ (8 October 2019) following two recent cases in which the concept of disbursements has been... Read more...
Socialising with colleagues – a thing of the past?
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
 It is not the role of The Practical Lawyer to judge. But firms would be well advised to re-visit their attitude to lawyers socialising with each other following a recent high-profile case of the... Read more...
Trial bundles – careful preparation required
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
Rather like buses, one waits for judicial comment on court documents and trial bundles, and then two come along at once. An article discusses a recent case in which the court was unimpressed with the... Read more...
Infant approval hearing – top tips
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
An interesting article provides some practical advice on achieving the court’s approval in infant approval hearings. This is a mechanism by which the court considers and, hopefully, approves the... Read more...
Tenant Fees Act 2019 – fully into force
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
We have reported in our March 2019 (p27) and May 2019 (p28) editions on the introduction of the Tenant Fees Act which came into force for new tenancies and licences to occupy on 1 June 2019. The Act... Read more...
CVA – use to reduce rent
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
 If a limited company is insolvent, it can use a CVA to pay creditors over a fixed period. If creditors agree, the limited company can continue trading. The CVA has been used by companies in the... Read more...
Rectification of title – what is ‘exceptional’?
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
The HC has considered whether or not to correct a mistake on a registered title. Under Sch 4 LRA 2002 the court can order rectification but no order may be made without the proprietor’s consent in... Read more...
Paternity – best interests
Wednesday, 13 November 2019
What’s the court’s approach to paternity cases when the issue arises years after the child’s birth, and in circumstances where both child and F always believed F was the biological father, but... Read more...
Religious beliefs – not always protected
Tuesday, 12 November 2019
The ET has heard an interesting case relating to a person’s religious beliefs. The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It replaced... Read more...

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