News in brief: honest feedback for LeO, law firm finances, LPO survey and much more

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By Legal Futures

19 April 2011


 
 

Sampson: there are some things we haven't got right

Honest feedback for LeO

The Legal Ombudsman has put together a high-powered stakeholder advisory panel to provide “expert and honest feedback” on its first six months of operation. It is chaired by Sue Carr QC of 4 New Square, who recently left the board of the Bar Standards Board and used to chair its complaints committee.

Chief ombudsman Adam Sampson said: “I always said before we opened our doors that, as a start-up, there would be some things which we hadn’t got right. I am really grateful that we have managed to gather together a team of knowledgeable and committed people who can help us build on the very good start that we’ve made.”

On the panel are:

  • Leading solicitor regulatory expert Andrew Hopper QC;
  • Sushila Abraham, a Surrey-based solicitor and member of the executive committee of the Solicitor Sole Practitioners Group;
  • Professor Stephen Mayson;
  • Jeff Bell, a member of the Legal Services Consumer Panel and a trading standards specialist;
  • Mike Jeacock, chief operating officer of the Solicitors Regulation Authority;
  • Nyall Farrell, an accountant who was interim chief operating officer at LeO before it went live;
  • Mark McLaren, public affairs campaigner at consumer group Which?;
  • Mark Cope, a Ministry of Justice official overseeing implementation of the Legal Services Act;
  • Ann Lewis, policy director of the Advice Services Alliance; and
  • Ibukun Olashore, director of The Organisation of Blind Africans & Caribbeans.

Shoosmiths on the move

Property move company Move with Us has joined forces with Shoosmiths to manage and sell property from probate transactions handled by the solicitors. Move with Us will value, manage and sell residential probate property through referrals from Shoosmiths, which it said would enable the law firm “to concentrate on its core work of administering estates and supporting clients through the legal process”.

Fraud call

Solicitors and licensed conveyancers need to take “a more definitive role in tackling mortgage fraud”, the chairman of the Conveyancing Association (CA) has said. Eddie Goldsmith warned that if conveyancers do not take action, “lenders will simply continue reducing their panels”.

He said: “The CA believes that the industry needs to recognise that we don’t have a divine right to be on lenders’ panels and therefore need to accept that lenders must manage their risks to reduce fraud… If our industry works together to raise standards and improve due diligence, this will go a long way in building the confidence of lenders and consumers in the integrity of services provided by the profession.”

The CA is currently meeting with lenders to understand what steps can be taken to ensure its members are operating at required quality levels.

Financial warning

A lack of financial and operational understanding could lead to more legal firms encountering financial difficulties, it was claimed last week.

Speaking at the Institute for Turnaround’s conference in Bristol, Steve Billot, director at RSM Tenon, said all too often firms do not have adequate practice management in place and fail to adequately recognise and deal with financial and/or operational problems early enough. Poorly implemented mergers, lack of financial forecasting and too slow a reaction to reduced business volumes can further trigger problems, potentially leading to insolvency and job losses, he added.

Graduate shortfall?

Vacancies for solicitors’ training contracts will outnumber new legal practice course graduates within the next few years, according to forecasts by the College of Law.

Its analysis suggests that the registration of trainees could start to exceed the crop of LPC graduates as early as this year. Under a more conservative scenario, based on an alternative set of data, the number of training contract vacancies could exceed the number of new LPC graduates by 2013/14. This is all down to the number of LPC graduates falling far more quickly than the number of training contracts, it said.

Professor Nigel Savage, the College’s chief executive, said the profession’s current approach of warning prospective students of the difficulty of finding a training contract could result in a shortage of the brightest LPC graduates and hamper the UK legal industry’s recovery from the economic downturn.

Divorce by phone

The first app to provide a comprehensive guide to divorcing in England and Wales has been launched by north London law firm OGR Stock Denton. The £9.99 app (called “Divorce?”) will save people hundreds of pounds in legal fees, its makers claim, by providing advice up front and delaying the point at which lawyers need to be instructed.

Peter Martin, head of family at the firm, said: “The purpose of Divorce? is to make people really think through their decision and then the whole process. This will help to generate informed discussions and better communication by getting both parties to start thinking and talking from the outset.

“It allows couples to have their eyes open before embarking on the formal stages of the process and spending money on legal fees. People don’t always think through the actual implications of divorce and this app makes them do that from the moment they start contemplating the idea. It might hopefully even encourage some people not to give up on their marriage so easily and try to work things out.”

More join LawNet

LawNet, the leading network for independent legal firms, has announced four new members: Breeze & Wyles in Hertfordshire, Denison Till in York, Godloves in Leeds, and Swinburne & Jackson in the north-east. LawNet chief executive John Thomas said: “We’re committed to the continuing growth of the network and it’s great to see the recognition by such firms of the benefits and strengths that we offer them, in this fast-changing legal environment.”

LawNet now has 68 member firms, and aims to reach 80 by 2012. Membership is by invitation to those firms which fit the LawNet profile of £2m-15m turnover and will commit to securing and maintaining the LawNet ISO 9001:2008 standard.

Value proposition for LPO

Demand for legal process outsourcing is increasing, driven by cost savings and by in-house legal departments seeking to make the best use of their resources, according to a poll organised by CPA Global, which styles itself a legal services outsourcing (LSO) provider, at the recent Law Department Forum, held in London by the Practical Law Company.

But many companies said they need help in identifying and separating out the legal work that can best be outsourced.

The poll of 80, mainly in-house, delegates revealed that:

  • Adding more strategic value to their business was the key priority for more than half of delegates (52%), with 29% pointing to increased efficiency and 15% to cost savings.
  • Around 20% of delegates were already outsourcing legal services, while a further 53% said they were open to outsourcing in the future.
  • An overwhelming majority (93%) said they would implement LSO if it could deliver savings of £10 million.
  • Nearly half of delegates (47%) believed that making the best use of their internal legal resources was the greatest benefit of using an LSO provider, while 27% cited cost savings and 22% pointed to the ability to scale up for unpredicted large projects.
  • 59% considered the main challenge of integrating an LSO provider into their organisation to be identifying and assigning appropriate work, while 29% said it was managing the relationship.

Fluck heads for the top

Nick Fluck has been named as deputy vice-president elect of the Law Society following a ballot of the society’s council. He will take office in July and become president in 2013. Mr Fluck, who practises at Stapleton & Son in Lincolnshire, chairs the society’s technology & law reference group and is a member of several other committees, including the management board.

Asked and answered

Legal advice website Expert Answers – in which users ask a question and set the price they are willing to pay for the answer – has launched an affiliate programme that allows commercial organisations, social enterprises, affinity groups and anyone else interested the opportunity to encourage customers, members or employees to use the site. Affiliates receive a percentage of the fee paid by the user.

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