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solicitors

The Law Society of England and Wales has, since the early 1990s, fought a rear-guard action against the engagement of solicitors in counter-money laundering efforts. The Regulator, which was first a division of the Law Society and then spun off to become a ludicrously politically charged enforcer of any passing social fad had, at that time the correct view that solicitors were within the scope of the original Money Laundering Regulations. At last, the regulator, now known as the Solicitors (sic) Regulatory Authority (it's so trendy it doesn't use an apostrophe where its name demands one) has decided that money laundering is something it needs to pay attention to. The Law Society is on a war footing, declaring the SRA's action "an assault."

The UK is undergoing a revolution in how legal advice is provided. After decades of de-regulation which has resulted in many areas of law that were covered by solicitors, supposed improvements have allowed many who are not specifically qualified as lawyers to provide advice and assistance. Add in the ever-more restrictive legal aid scheme and it's no surprise that some people turn to non-lawyers for help. Enter the dangerous world of the "professional McKenzie Friend."

A Court has ruled that law firm was not culpable for making payments, from its clients' account, for the benefit of clients who were subject to a freezing order.

The news that judges, in London, have been charged with fraud is just part of a much larger problem. Alongside them are solicitors. The Metropolitan Police have been investigating what they describe as a "complex fraud team investigation." The case started after a court clerk reported suspicions of suspicious claims for state-funded payments under the Legal Aid Scheme. However, legal aid fraud has been a long-running problem in the legal system in England and Wales with criminal and immigration practitioners being most commonly reported.

For the second time recently, a matter before the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal in England and Wales has considered the use of a firm's clients' account for the provision of quasi-banking services. The SDT is starting to impose more substantial penalties and has clearly had enough of solicitors who fail to comply with their obligations under counter-money laundering laws and regulations. Like in the first case, the solicitor concerned is elderly and one might say that he might be considered as having carried on long-standing practices in the face of changing practice requirements and culture.

A report in The Law Society's Gazette about a male Judge's comments to a women's group meeting has raised the hackles of working men in the solicitor's branch in England and Wales. So who is to blame? The judge for making the comments that can be rightly regarded as sexist or the Law Society which after decades of being "right on" or whatever the current phrase may have finally gone too far in its apparent approval of the Judge's comments? Or perhaps both.,

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The Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal (which, trendily, omits the apostrophe when it writes its own name) has levied its largest fine ever. Like the previous largest, it's against the London office of a US law firm.

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Simon Spence wants to be the next Vice Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association of England and Wales. Not only does he stand on a platform of disparaging solicitors, he does it in such a way that he felt the need to clarify his comments. Surely an accomplished advocate should be expected to be clear the first time, to say what he means and to mean what he says? Then the next question is how can someone who fails those basic tests, with a failure he himself demonstrates by his attempts at correction, can be trusted in a position of high-office within a major professional body?

CoNet Section: 

In the past 25 years or so, the level of professionalism in the solicitors branch has fallen dramatically as thieves, vagabonds, chancers and businessmen, "right-on" campaigners and the barely literate have taken over the once proud profession. But there have, generally, been beacons that remind us what the Profession shoulda, coulda, woulda become if the correct decisions had been made by government and the self-regulatory bodies that control it. One of those has always been Clyde & Co. How, then, has this (in City terms) small, highly professional outfit, ended up before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the firm, and three partners, being fined? And what lessons are there for other law firms? (updated)

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