The Practical Lawyer

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Clients – advice warning?

To what extent should you warn a client that your advice may be wrong? The answer is that a warning should be given when there is a ‘significant risk’ about the construction or interpretation of the law.

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Professional – update

Allegations of sexual harassment made against solicitors and those working in legal practice must be reported to the SRA. Harassment includes ‘patronising’ sexism, taunting or predatory behaviour. A solicitor who ‘engages in sexual harassment’ is likely to have breached SRA principles and the Code of Conduct (including a failure to uphold the law or to act with integrity). This guidance comes from the Law Society and is far more unequivocal than previous statements. See [2017] LSG 27 November 1.

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Professional – update

There was much publicity about the Supreme Court decision involving the professional gambler who successfully ran a ‘sting’ against Crockfords. In essence, the court decided that the issue of whether conduct is honest or dishonest is applied using an objective standard; there is no longer a requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what they have done is ‘dishonest’.

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Team moves – covenants?

To what extent can a firm protect itself against a ‘team departure’?

There will undoubtedly be duties owed to the departing partners that are set out in the partnership (or LLP) agreement. In addition there may well be fiduciary duties of good faith and fidelity implied by law. But, it is the restrictive covenants that are likely to be the main focus of attention.

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Law firm – closure

The options for a solicitor wanting to retire (or simply to give up legal practice) are: closure; sale of all or parts to another firm; internal acquisition by a solicitor; creating an ABS to enable a non-lawyer to own the business; or external parties agreeing to buy and operate the firm under its current name.

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Solicitors Journal – demise

The oldest legal journal is (or was) the Solicitors Journal.

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Professional – update

The economy may have stood still in recent years, but that has not stopped the solicitor profession growing in size: there are now 140,000 (an increase of 15,000 in the last five years!). It does seem an unsupportable growth rate [2017] LSG 23 October 1.

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SRA – principles, not rules

The SRA has a new focus on ‘principles’ and ‘professional judgement’, as opposed to ‘rules’.   

Inevitably, a principles-based approach is more uncertain than a rules-based approach, and it is therefore more important for firms to have a recorded set of strong systems and controls which are implemented consistently across the firm.  

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Professional – update

Spare a thought for the hapless staff of the UK arm of Slater and Gordon, which has been spun off and is now wholly owned by international hedge funds (although it will continue to trade as Slater and Gordon). Certainly, it is a sad end to a saga that started with the takeover of Russell Jones & Walker in 2012. [2017] LSG 4 September 3.  

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Conflict of interest – White & Case

White & Case has been fined £250,000(!) by the SDT for conflict breaches.

Apart from the massive sums involved, the case does raise considerable concerns for practitioners.  

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