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SFO – reporting client fraud

We all know there are a few, limited circumstances where solicitors are legally obliged to provide information to the regulatory authorities (eg Proceeds of Crime Act, Terrorism Act). Subject to such exceptions, the overriding principle is that there is a duty of confidence to the client.

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SRA – advice

If you have the misfortune to be investigated by the SRA, then the key advice is:

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Solicitors – banking collapse

The Law Society has updated its banking crisis Practice Note (as at 8 January). Most of it will be familiar to practitioners by now but it is important to check that all clients are now told in writing:

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Retainer – hopeless case

You cannot terminate your client’s retainer just because you think the case is hopeless.

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Trainees – sacking?

As firms lay off staff, some are wondering whether or not they can get rid of their trainees. The answer will generally be no, and there are two points to remember:

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Client account – bills

Rule 22(3)(b) says that office money may only be withdrawn from a client account when it is properly required for payment of costs under Rule 19(2)(3). But, 19(2) says that a solicitor who requires payment of fees from money held in a client account must first give or send a bill of costs, or other written notification of the costs incurred, to the client or the paying party.

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Professional – update

Beware unilaterally rejecting applications for training contracts from non-EU students (ie students who would need a work permit). The EAT recently upheld a finding of indirect race discrimination (on the grounds of nationality) against Osborne Clarke because of this.

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TTs – correct practice

Many solicitors arranging TTs will charge a sum that is a composite figure comprising the charge made by the bank (eg £20), plus an additional £10, making a total charge to the client of £30 plus VAT.

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Solicitor – bankruptcy

Bankruptcy automatically suspends a solicitor’s practising certificate. In the case of a sole practitioner it will therefore mean the closure of the firm (eg by intervention).

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Proceeds of Crime – failure to disclose

The offence of ‘failing to disclose’ arises when someone (eg a solicitor) knows, or suspects (or has reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting) that someone else is engaged in ‘money laundering’. This is, of course, s330 PoCA 2002, and there are four defences available (reasonable excuse; privileged circumstances; lack of specified training; money laundering occurred outside UK).

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