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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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Professional – update

Slater and Gordon are showing that life as a listed company is not all plain sailing. Shares in the world’s largest publicly listed law firm more than halved in the three months of the summer. In large part this was not due to the firm’s £637m deal with Quindell, but to accounting issues arising from the acquisition of Russell Jones & Walker in 2012 (and VAT recording). [2015] LSG 6 July 6.

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Professional – update

The arrival of Gateley as the first law firm on the UK Stock Exchange has received much publicity. It is expected that a few other large firms will follow this route (the main attraction is for those who want to expand, but do not want to borrow significantly, or have to put in their own capital). 

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Undertaking – firm liability

An undertaking is a commitment by a solicitor to do something, cause something to be done, or to abstain from doing something. It can be given orally or in writing (and does not have to include the word ‘undertake’ or ‘undertaking’).

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Professional – update

The number of solicitors in private practice grew at its fastest rate for nine years in 2014; there are 130,000 solicitors (90,000 in private practice). One in three are based in London, with one in five working for a City firm [2015] LSG 27 April 1.

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Solicitors – competence

Version 13 of the SRA Handbook was published in April 2015. The major change is the introduction of the competence statement.

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Solicitor competence – CPD

The ‘statement of solicitor competence’ requires the individual solicitor to ensure that they meet the necessary standards. This is going to impact in a major way on CPD, and is likely to require a culture shift. In future, it is unlikely to be sufficient to continue to undertake courses by reference to a target number of hours, or on the basis of updates in your own practice area. Instead, you are likely to have to demonstrate a critical understanding and assessment of your own weaknesses against a fairly broadly phrased set of principles. Many of those benchmarks relate to soft skills, such as effective communication with clients and others.

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Consumer credit – time to pay?

There is much confusion about how the Consumer Credit Regs apply to solicitors. Part of the problem is that simply allowing a client time to pay an outstanding bill can amount to the provision of ‘consumer credit’, and thus raise difficult regulatory issues.

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Client – sacking

While a solicitor can be sacked by the client without notice, the converse is not the case – the solicitor can only stop acting for a client with good reason and on reasonable notice. 

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Fraud – new scam

We assume that all firms are now aware of the ‘Friday afternoon scam’. This involves fraudsters contacting law firms and impersonating staff from banks, so as to elicit information to enable them to steal client money. Needless to say, Friday afternoon is the completion time for many conveyancing transactions, and it is the time when the fraudsters most commonly target account staff. 

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