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Breaking or Essential news items and threads relating to changes in the justice system

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News Roundup - solicitors and other lawyers making the bad news since 1996 to date

 

 

 

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LCS reveals plans to publish complaints

The Legal Complaints Service (LCS) is to press ahead with plans to publish detailed information on upheld, adjudicated complaints against solicitors and keep it on public record for three years, the Gazette has learned. Ahead of Thursday’s launch of the second phase of its consultation on publishing solicitor complaints, the LCS chief executive said publication was its preferred option. She added that it was in the consumer interest and would act as a kind of league table for the profession. Deborah Evans said: ‘Such a tool would be fantastic for the consumer, but we also believe it would improve standards within the profession. It would shape the profession in the same way that this kind of proposal has shaped and driven demand in schools.’ The LCS plans to publish complaints on its website against the name of the firm and/or individual practitioners. Paper copies of complaints would be available via email or telephone request.

Law Society Gazette

01 Feb 2008

Public shame for lawyers who break the rules

Thousands of solicitors who are found guilty each year of a range of crimes and misdemeanours, from ignoring letters to plundering clients’ money, are to be identified publicly. Solicitors in England and Wales found guilty of breaching professional rules will be listed on a Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA) website open to the public. The move took effect at the start of the year and is the latest initiative by the SRA, which is responsible for the training, standards and discipline of 100,000 solicitors. Details are expected to appear at the end of this month. The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal, which deals with the most serious cases of misconduct, publishes its findings. By the end of this year it will have dealt with more than 300 cases, 20 per cent up on last year. But hundreds more solicitors are disciplined by the authority for lesser offences of misconduct, which are dealt with privately. In the past 12 months from November 2006 1,984 solicitors had conditions put on their practising certificates and 351 were given warnings, rebukes and reprimands.

Times Online

03 Jan 2008

Legal Services Bill gets House of Lords' blessing

The Bar Council and Law Society welcomed the House of Lords' approval of the Legal Services Bill last Thursday (25 October). Law Society president Andrew Holroyd said the bill, once it receives Royal Assent later this week, will create a foundation for the future of the legal profession. "The Legal Services Bill has changed much since it was first published last December, and changed for the better," said Holroyd. "We had many doubts then, but now we can safely say it provides a workable basis for achieving Sir David Clementi's aims of modernising the regulatory structure."

The Lawyer

29 Oct 2007

Need legal advice? Try a website that's laying down the law on costs

A new 'lawyer supermarket' offers quotes for services from conveyancing to getting a divorce. Sean Coughlan puts it to the test

The concept of the price comparison website is being applied to lawyers - casting light on that most difficult of legal questions: "How much will it cost?"
Since many people only use a lawyer infrequently, when they do have to look for legal advice it's difficult to know what constitutes a fair price and what is a rip-off. And for anyone beginning legal proceedings, there is a worry about the size of the final bill. But a new website, takelegaladvice.com, is aiming to drag prices into the open. It is offering an online quote for law firms, much in the way financial services websites do for insurance, mortgages or personal loans. It's a kind of lawyer supermarket.

Guardian

21 Oct 2007

SRA scheme to bypass tribunal

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has launched a system that will allow investigations against solicitors to be settled without turning to the Tribunals Service.
The scheme will allow for settlements in scenarios similar to that of the conflicts investigation into Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s former corporate chief Barry O’Brien over his role in the firm’s decision to accept a conflicted instruction bidding for Marks & Spencer. In O’Brien’s case the investigation took three years, but under the new scheme the inquiry would have been significantly shorter as O’Brien was willing to apologise for his error and pay the pentalty, in that case £9,000 plus £50,000 costs.

The Lawyer

See also:

Legal Week

10 Oct 2007

Take note, absolutely everyone

This week solicitors will receive the Law Society’s Money Laundering Practice Note – its guidance to law firms on coping with the new money-laundering regulations 2007 that take effect in mid-December.

Times Online

03 Sep 2007

Scotland must prepare for Clementi

2007 is an important year for Scottish lawyers. It has seen the passing into law of the Legal Professions and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act and it will in all probability see the passing into law of the Legal Services Bill. While the Legal Services Bill will have direct effect only in England and Wales, these effects will be felt far beyond those confines. Is the Law Society of Scotland aware of these issues? And is it doing anything to take the matter forward? The short answer is yes, the society is working very hard on a number of projects. Chief among those are the work on standards and the work on alternative business structures (ABSs). So far as standards are concerned, we recognise that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission does pose a challenge to the profession to raise its game. We happen to think that standards in the profession are already high, but we would never rest on our laurels, even if there had been no criticism levelled at us.

The Lawyer

06 Aug 2007

The Home office is no more.

My appetite for such matters, whilst not yet suffering from a surfeit of music or lampreys, is sorely tested notwithstanding. Will loyal readers therefore excuse my delegating this matter to a certain search engine? Your feedback will be noted, appreciated, but not necessarily acknowledged. UJ

The Home Office

(Adjust the settings accordingly - read the options...)

08 May 2007

New bar association launched to raise direct access awareness

A new barristers' association is to be launched to promote direct access to the bar. The Public Access Bar Association (PABA) will aim to encourage the Bar Council to improve public awareness of the option to instruct a barrister before using a solicitor. PABA will represent the hundreds of barristers who registered in July 2004 to take on work directly from the public without having to go through a law firm. Marc Beaumont of Windsor Chambers, the acting PABA chairman pending committee appointments, said that there is a high level of public ignorance when it comes to direct access.

The Lawyer

30 Apr 2007

SRA wheels out new solicitors Code of Conduct

The new-look Solicitors Code of Conduct will come into effect from 1 July, 2007, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced today (19 March). The new guidelines will replace the Law Society’s old Guide to the Professional Code of Conduct for Solicitors and comprise 25 non-mandatory rules for practising solicitors and law firm managers. Lawyers will be encouraged to access the latest version of the code online after it received final ministerial approval this week. Under the reforms, law firms will be required to replace the phrase ‘Regulated by the Law Society’ on their notepaper with the new wording ‘Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’.

Legal Week

20 Mar 2007

Big Bang put on hold as Legal Services Bill delayed till 2010

The Legal Services Bill is unlikely to come into force before 2010 in a move that will raise questions over the future of the UK profession’s much-hyped ‘Big Bang’ law reforms. The Bill is set to receive Royal Assent this autumn and had been expected to come into force during 2008-09, making the UK by far the most liberal legal services market in the world. However, Parliamentary under-secretary of state for constitutional affairs Bridget Prentice this month conceded in a meeting with the Bar Standards Board that the closely-watched legislation is unlikely to be implemented until 2010 at the earliest. A spokesman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) this week said that the Bill was generally expected to come into force “two to three years” after Royal Assent. Unofficially, the DCA has indicated that the Bill is unlikely to come into force until 2011.

Legal Week

16 Mar 2007

Legal aid review plan published

The government is due to publish proposals which are likely to dramatically reshape the legal aid system in England and Wales. Ministers hope the reform will save £100 million a year. Under the new plans, lawyers would bid for all legal aid work generated by groups of police stations, rather than be paid by the hour. The plans are already facing opposition from the legal profession which says they would put people out of work.

BBC

28 Nov 2006

Government unveils long-awaited Legal Services Bill

The Government today (24 November) published its controversial Legal Services Bill, signalling the onset of a radical shake-up that promises to make the UK the most liberal legal market in the world. The long-awaited legislation, which was formally announced yesterday in the House of Lords and is expected to take effect from 2008, green-lights radical plans for Alternative Business Structures allowing law firms to form practices with other professionals, such as barristers and accountants, and attract external investment.

Legal Week

24 Nov 2006

Lawyers welcome landmark libel ruling

By Michael Herman

Read the judgment in full

Media lawyers in London today welcomed the law lords' rejection of Jameel v Wall Street Journal Europe, saying it would strengthen "serious", investigative journalism carried out in the public interest. Mark Stephens, a partner at Finers Stephens Innocent and a Times Online columnist, who represented the Wall Street Journal Europe, said: "For too long the libel courts have treated Reynolds' ten factors as ten trip wires for the media, rendering the defence a snare and an illusion. "The law lords today have balanced the right to know by allowing responsibly published libellous information to be protected provided it is reported in a matter of public interest. This is a decision which will free responsible investigative journalists from threats of libel."

Times Online

11 Oct 2006

Legal aid shake-up could force 800 firms to close, report claims

As many as 800 law firms – double the number originally predicted – could be forced out of business as a result of the biggest shake-up of the legal aid system in 50 years creating a shortage in the market, a new study has predicted. An independent analysis of the reforms by LECG, an economic consultancy, found that "a minimum of about 800" firms would have to merge into larger practices in order to survive once the Carter proposals are implemented. Lord Carter of Coles, who unveiled the reforms in July, predicted that around 400 firms would have to merge or disband. The reforms call for a wide-ranging overhaul to the £2.1 billion a year publicly funded legal aid system aimed at saving at least £100 million annually. The most controversial change, replacing hourly solicitors’ fees with fixed or graduated payments, is likely to force small firms that rely on criminal legal aid work out of business.

Times Online

26 Sep 2006

Solicitors face tough drive over competence

HUNDREDS of secret disciplinary hearings held each year against solicitors are expected to go public, in a drive to rid the profession of poor standards and dishonesty. At the same time, solicitors could face regular “MoT” tests in the shape of competence checks — to ensure, in the vogue words of the Home Secretary, that they are “fit for purpose”..."Last year, of 594 adjudications held after a complaint about a solicitor, the society made 222 decisions to reprimand or severely reprimand 139 solicitors. The more serious cases, where conditions are attached to a solicitor’s practising certificate, are already made public to people who inquire." (It just ain't gonna happen. UJ)

Times Online

01 Aug 2006

Lawyers face prospect of competence checks

Solicitors could face competence checks as the Law Society Regulation Board seeks to crack down on poor practice. Antony Townsend, the Law Society’s first chief executive for regulation, told the Gazette that ‘the focus on continuing professional competence is something all regulators ought to be involved in’. The development follows government plans for five-yearly MOT-style checks for doctors, based on appraisals.

Law Society Gazette

28 Jul 2006

A&O loses 170,000 files in warehouse inferno

A huge warehouse blaze in East London has destroyed hundreds of thousands of legal documents belonging to a number of top City firms. Allen & Overy (A&O), Norton Rose and Simmons & Simmons lost a huge number of files in last Wednesday night's (12 July) fire at a document storage warehouse belonging to Canada's Iron Mountain, on Twelvetrees Crescent in Bromley-by-Bow. As The Lawyer went to press, the firms were still assessing the extent of the damage and were waiting for Iron Mountain to give them inventories. However, A&O has lost approximately 170,000 documents, while Norton Rose is understood to have had around 7,000 files destroyed...(Convenient, eh? UJ)

The Lawyer

17 Jul 2006

Law Society complaints handling still not satisfactory

The Law Society has made slow progress on improving its complaints-handling function according to the annual report of the Office of the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner (OLSCC), which was unveiled today (11 July). Despite a second year of steady improvements, commissioner Zahida Manzoor revealed she was not satisfied by 33% of the cases she reviewed in the period from 1 April, 2005, to 31 March, 2006. The independent body completed 1,909 investigations into complaints that were made during the year with an average turnaround per case of 3.2 months. Average compensation awarded hit £435. Total annual compensation spend reached £143,645. Manzoor commented: "Once again I am disappointed to report that the main issues arising from the consumer’s perspective continue to be delay in investigations; poor communication; acting without instruction; providing misleading information; and breaching confidentiality."

Legal Week See also:

Legal Services Ombudsman

12 Jul 2006

Lawyers face £750,000 fine

The Law Society is expected to be given a second heavy fine of up to £750,000 for its failure over handling the public’s complaints (Frances Gibb writes). The solicitors’ professional body in England and Wales was fined an unprecedented £250,000 last month over proposed 2006-07 targets for complaints handling. The Legal Services Commissioner will now rule on last year’s record, when four out of seven targets were missed. (And the thousands of unresolved cases that the Law Society has ignored, lost, buried, fudged, obfuscated and generally confounded? Should add two zeros. UJ)

Times Online

13 Jun

Law Soc slashes staff as cost-cuts begin

The Law Society is beginning a programme of cost-saving redundancies, citing the results of a recent consultation as the catalyst. The society’s representative side, which employs around 300 staff, has told 11 people that they are likely to be made redundant as well as freezing a further 12 posts which were due to be advertised. It is understood that further redundancies are likely as the society continues a cost-cutting programme.

The Lawyer

19 May

Law Society fined £250,000 by complaints commissioner

The Law Society has been handed a £250,000 fine by the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner, it was announced today (17 May), after the independent watchdog slammed Chancery Lane’s bid to improve its complaints-handling record.

Legal Week

17 May 2006

Government approves updated conflict rules

The Government has brought the long-running tussle over legal conflicts rules to an end after it announced today (5 May) that it was to approve the latest revision of the plans. The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) this week gave the thumbs up to the Law Society’s proposals, which were drawn up in consultation with the City of London Law Society in a bid to bring the existing system up to date. Under the new-look regime, which is due to come into affect later this year, it will now be possible for a law firm to represent two clients in an auction where both clients are competing for the same goal.

Legal Week Global

05 May 2006

Law Society announces new consumer complaints head

The Law Society has unveiled Deborah Evans as the inaugural chief executive of its new Consumer Complaints Service (CCS). Evans, currently practice director at Birmingham firm Anthony Collins, will begin in the role in July and is set to work alongside Consumer Complaints Board (CCB) chair Shamit Saggar. (Anthony Collins numbers amongst UJ's more regular visitors. UJ)

Legal Week

05 May 2006

Law Society rapped for aiming low

The body which polices solicitors' in England and Wales could be fined after its plan for handling complaints was thrown out for being 'inadequate' and letting down consumers.Last September, the Law Society was asked to put forward a plan on how it could improve its complaint-handling over 12 months starting from April this year. The move came after it emerged people were waiting three months before the Law Society even acknowledged it had received their complaint.

Which?

03 Apr 2006

FSA removes money laundering rule

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is streamlining its detailed rules on money laundering - by removing them. Firms will still be required to have money laundering reporting officers, check the identity of clients, and report any suspected money laundering.

BBC

07 Feb 2006

The Law Society invites views about legal services reforms, launching an online survey.

"The Law Society is changing. Forget your preconceptions- think about what you really want from the Law Society. Radical changes lie ahead for the profession; the government is preparing to enact legal services reforms. We believe solicitors need a strong professional body, championing their cause. What sort of Law Society will you, your firm, or your legal department need?"

Survey closes 21 April 2006

The Law Society

05 Feb 2006

Public deserve a better deal from lawyers

In a recent Which?, survey 52 per cent of people who'd used a lawyer in the previous three years said they'd be put off making a complaint if it was to another solicitor.

Which? Press Release

24 Jan 2006

Law Society could vanish amid revamp

SOLICITORS are facing the biggest organisational upheaval in their professional history with the break-up of the 165-year-old Law Society and its multimillion-pound empire. The move could see the sale of half its headquarters at Chancery Lane, a prize asset, and the axing of the 105-strong council, as well as other cost-saving measures. The functions of the society, the professional body for 100,000 solicitors in England and Wales, will be split and its complaints service hived off to a new, independent consumer-focused complaints board.

Times Online

07 Jan 2006

Solicitor complaint system revised

Consumers complaining about inadequate service from solicitors, will be able to win back up to £15,000 in compensation without having to go to court, under new rules announced yesterday...

"Yesterday, Bridget Prentice, legal services minister, said that at present consumers who had a serious complaint against a solicitor were forced to go back to court if they wanted compensation in excess of £5,000. "After one poor experience with the legal profession, these consumers then have to hire another solicitor and undergo what can be a lengthy and expensive process," she said. The Law Society's record on complaints-handling has been the subject of sustained criticism from the legal services ombudsman, although the professional body itself claims the situation has been improving. In the new year a new Consumer Complaints Board, which has a lay majority, will oversee this area."

Financial Times

30 Dec 2005

Brief analysis of the complex fraud trials issue.

Jubilee line fraud trial collapses at enormous cost Guardian, 23 March 2005

Alcohol duties fraud trial collapses. BBC, 26 November 2002

In 1995, the trial of Ian and Kevin Maxwell lasted eight months, cost £25m and resulted in no convictions.

in 1994 the Brent Walker trial cost £40m, lasted four months and resulted in only one conviction.

"The public no longer believes that the legal system ... is capable of bringing the perpetrators of serious frauds expeditiously and effectively to book. The overwhelming weight of the evidence laid before us suggests that the public is right. In relation to such crimes, and to the skilful and determined criminals who commit them, the present legal system is archaic, cumbersome and unreliable. At every stage ... the present arrangements offer an open invitation to blatant delay and abuse."

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, September 1993 Speech by Lord Roskill

In the UK during the 1970's and early 1980's there was considerable public dissatisfaction with the system for investigating and prosecuting serious and complex fraud. Serious Fraud Office

Research notes

To search Google for relevant pdf documents featuring the 1986 "Roskill Report", entitled:"Fraud Trials Committee Report", click here

Download the Fraud Bill as introduced in the House of Lords on 25th May 2005 pdf or html

 

27 Nov 2005

Legal Services Reform links

A selection from the press

Financial Times

The Herald

Telegraph

The Times

BBC

18 Oct 2005

Legal Services Reform

The government wants to reform the regulatory framework for legal services to put the consumer first. We want a framework that promotes competition, innovation and protects the consumer.

Download the White Paper from the DCA web site

"...in 2004, Sir David Clementi completed a report to me on
reforming the regulatory framework. His report confirmed that the case for
reform is clear, and reform is overdue."

DCA

17 Oct 2005

Government set for Clementi ‘white paper’

The Government is gearing up to fast-track Sir David Clementi’s radical package of legal reforms into legislation as the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) prepares to publish its much-anticipated white paper next month. The document will, for the first time, unveil the detail of its stated commitment to implement the reform agenda put forward by Clementi in his report on legal services regulation in December.

Legal Week

15 Sept 2005

Vote confirms desire to split Law Soc

The UK's lawyers have voted through The Law Society's proposal to take the resposibilty (sic) for regulation away from the Law Society Council.

The Lawyer

13 Sept 2005

Department for Constitutional Affairs publishes Conditional Fee Arrangement Response Paper DCA 26 Aug 2005

Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal publishes 2004 and 2005 reports

SDT

06 Aug 2005

Summary of the Annual Report for the Legal Services Ombudsman for England and Wales 2004/2005

Read the summary, or download the full report as a pdf

OLSO

15 Jul 2005

STEP publishes Probate Fraud Report

What it is and what should be done about it
A report by Arthur Mayson ACIB TEP
What is probate fraud?
Put simply, probate fraud is an attempt to deprive the beneficiaries of an estate of their rightful inheritance. Its mainstays are false accounting, abusing a power of attorney, fake beneficiaries, property theft and bogus wills. Why is probate fraud so easy? Download pdf report

STEP Report

14 Jul 2005

A fairer deal for legal aid

This paper outlines our long-term strategy for legal aid reform and was laid in parliament on 5 July 2005. It sets out proposals that aim to guarantee continued fair and equal access to justice; improve outcomes for those who most need publicly funded legal services ensuring that the taxpayer gets value for money from those who provide legal services.
You can download and print the paper in sections that are smaller file sizes. (use the link, right)

DCA

05 Jul 2005

Sir Steven Lander has published his Independent Commissioners Easter 2005 report

Download from the Law Society.

Law Society

03 Jul 2005

Outrage at fresh attempts to curb jury trials

The government expects up to 20 fraud trials a year to be heard by a judge alone as a result of abolishing trial by jury for complex cases. The estimate came from Lord Goldsmith, attorney-general, as he launched a renewed attempt to curb jury trials. His plans provoked an outraged reaction from the legal profession, civil liberties groups and political opponents.

Financial Times 21 Jun 2005

Law Soc, Bar Council condemn plans to scrap juries in fraud trials

Legal groups have this morning roundly condemned government proposals to scrap juries in fraud trials. The Law Society, Bar Council and the human rights organisation Justice have all criticised the government after the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, announced plans for judges to try serious fraud cases without a jury.

The Lawyer

21 Jun 2005

Sweeping reforms to regulatory and representative functions of legal professional bodies. 21 Mar 2005

   

Steven Richard Daultrey
Former solicitor, of Glendale, London Road, Balcombe, West Sussex RH17 6HT; granted restoration to the roll on 18 November 2004 (application 9061-2004). Law Society Gazette

   
Clementi prompts Law Society to split functions - The Lawyer    
Review of the Regulatory Framework for Legal Services in England and Wales - Sir David Clementi issues Final Report 15 Dec 2004    
Fraudsters move to Cyprus. Should Greece and Turkey be members of the European Union? Well, I guess they have just as much right, given that Britain still operates the Isle of Man, another refuge for rogues.    
Office of the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner is launched. LSCC    
Law Society to hive off regulation. The Law Society is to split into two bodies, one to police solicitors' conduct and the other to act as their trade union, in the biggest change in its 179-year history. News    

First black High Court judge

Linda Dobbs, QC, will be sworn in to her post at the end of September this year. Described by a colleague as "focused, practical and down-to-earth", Ms Dobbs will assume her new post after recently stepping down from chairing the Criminal Bar Association. (About time, too. UJ)

   
Civil Consultation - A new focus for civil Legal Aid. Download PDF documents from the DCA web site.    
Legal Services Ombudsman in England & Wales and Scotland publish their 2003/2004 reports. LSO and SLSO    
Which? Calls for End of Lawyers' Self-Regulation. News - Which? Press Release    
Fraud Law Reform - download the Consultation on Proposals for Legislation from LegalDay fraud section    
Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman call for regulation of lawyers to be split. News    
Law Society of Scotland publishes its response to Sir David Clementi's consultation. Law Society of Scotland    
Office of Fair Trading issues its response to: The Independent Review of the Regulatory Framework for The Legal Professions in England & Wales.    
Office for the Supervision of Solicitors is rebranded - again!    
Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal publishes 2003 report    
Axe falls on the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors Guardian    
Time might be running out for lawyers' rights to self-regulation. News    

Law Society regains some ground in its bid to retain its right to self-regulation, but is it enough? In Strictest Confidence

   
Financial Services Authority publishes its Financial Risk Outlook report 2004."The city's chief watchdog has doubled its budget for lawyers in the wake of a huge increase in fines and investigations." James Moore - Telegraph - 28/01/04 News    
"Unprecedented" interim report by the Legal Services Ombudsman on the performance of the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors - see News    

 

 

 

 

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