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Lobbying – register

Anyone – including law firms – who lobbies ministers must register under the Transparency of Lobbying etc Act 2014.

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Retainer – identifying

It is always important to (i) identify the correct client, and (ii) identify the proper scope of the retainer.

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Client account – not a bank facility

The Law Society issued guidance on 18 December 2014 on improper use of client accounts as banking facilities for clients. Needless to say, that is not what client accounts are for and the use of them for such purposes risks law firms being involved in financial crime and the evasion of insolvency processes. 

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Professional – update

Legal Marketing Services is a conveyancing outsourcer which claims to promote a ‘more responsible’ approach to panel selections for lenders. Several of the larger lenders have joined up with LMS and the result has been new restrictions on conveyancing panels (in particular, firms must have had at least 120 purchases in the last 12 months). 

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Indemnity insurance – aggregation

The Commercial Court has favoured a wide interpretation of the aggregation clause in the SRA Minimum Terms and Conditions.

Litigation involved 214 claimants in relation to overseas holiday home developments in two different locations. In essence, the complaints were that a firm of solicitors had prematurely released funds held in escrow. The collective value of all these claims was c£10m but the solicitor’s level of indemnity was £3m for any one claim. Not surprisingly, the insurers argued that the claims should be aggregated on the basis that they arose from a ‘series of related matters or transactions’.

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Statutory declaration – the basics

Who is authorised to take a statutory declaration? The answer is:

Solicitors (holding a current practising certificate); barristers; notaries at public (but not ecclesiastical notaries); licensed conveyancers; FILEX (if they pay a full sub, but not retired Fellows); patent agents; trademark agents; JPs (but only under Stamp Duties Management Act 1891).

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Contract at home – cancellation

The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumers Home or Place of Work Regs 2008 were replaced on 13 January 2014. But, the old Regs continued to cause problems for lawyers.

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Accounts – qualified reports

The current definition of a qualified accountant’s report is one that ‘the reporting accountant has found necessary to qualify’. The new description will be where ‘the reporting accountant forms the judgement that these rules have not been complied with such that the safety of clients’ money is at risk’.

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Professional – update

It has finally been decided that the SRA will regulate firms offering credit services to clients. Previously, the SRA had suggested that the FCA should take over this responsibility, which would have meant a significant dual regulatory burden for many firms. This is important, given the wide definition of consumer credit (eg it can include allowing clients to pay in instalments). See [2015] LSG 14 September 2.

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Accounts – banking glitches

There have been several well-publicised incidents of major clearing banks suffering IT glitches, which have meant that money has not been transferable in and out of accounts. Looking ahead, what should law firms do if client money becomes temporarily inaccessible? The basic guidance is:

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