The Practical Lawyer


Costs budgets – Precedent H

The new costs budgeting rules came into force on 6 April 2016. The most important change involves the times for filing the Precedent H form. If the claim is valued at less than £50,000, it now needs to be filed with the directions questionnaire. If the case is valued over £50,000, a Precedent H must be filed 21 days prior to the costs and case management conference (CCMC).
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Client advice – general risks

Specialist tax solicitors were sued by a client over a failed tax avoidance scheme. While their advice about the scheme was not negligent, they were negligent in failing to give a ‘general warning’ (eg that HMRC might challenge the scheme).

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Accounts rules – ‘risk’

The old list of prescribed work and test procedures to be carried out by accountants when reviewing law firm accounts has been replaced by r43.A.1, which requires accountants to exercise their ‘professional judgement’ in deciding how much work is needed.

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Professional – update

The difficulties in the personal injury sector are well illustrated by recent results: Minster Law lost £35m last year, and Raleys (well known for coal claims) went bust [2016] LSG 21 March 3, while Slater and Gordon – struggling under last year’s £500m loss – is contemplating major restructuring and redundancies [2016] LSG 11 April 4. On a more upbeat note, the Co-op, which has already been through its restructuring, has moved from a £5m loss to a £700,000 profit. [2016] LSG 11 April 1. Quality Solicitors meanwhile is also changing its direction (again!) and is becoming increasingly allied with property services firm Move With Us; its last filed accounts showed a loss of £2.7m.

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Professional – deposit protection

The Law Society has updated its practice note on deposit protection for client accounts following the protection limit being reduced from £85,000 to £75,000.

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Client account – not a bank facility

The Law Society issued guidance on 18 December 2014 on the improper use of client accounts as banking facilities for clients (see our November 2015 issue, p34). 
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Implied retainer – duty of care?

Another reminder of the importance of having a clear retainer letter which sets out who the client is, and the scope of liability. This is particularly important if you are acting for a company – are you, or are you not, also acting for the individual directors?
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Free advice – friends

We have all given free advice to friends. The dangers of doing so are well illustrated by a recent case involving an architect.
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Accounts rules – client-to-client transfers

Rule 27.2 says that if a private loan is to be made by (or to) joint clients, the consent of each client must be obtained. Often, such instructions are made orally by a lender. But, it is important to get the written authority from both lender and borrower on the file.
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Professional – update

The Slater & Gordon saga rumbles on; the firm posted a loss of £492m for the half (!) year, largely because of the mess it made in buying the assets of Quindell [2016] LSG 7 March 1. Old hands will often suggest that the time to settle a claim with a law firm that is in financial strain is just before the end of the billing quarter or billing month – when staff are under enormous pressure to meet their targets.
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