The government has poured cold water on the use of interest on solicitors’ client accounts to fill the social welfare advice and support gap as recommended last week by the Low Commission.
Barristers using the new escrow account so they can deal with client money will not retain any interest, it has emerged. The Bar Council’s BARCO scheme should also prove difficult to defraud, according to the man who has led its development.
Comparisons between the 2012 Olympics and the compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) nomination process are more obvious than you might think: both were years in the preparation, shrouded in mystery, beset by operational PR disasters and, ultimately, over in a flash. This month’s blog brings you live coverage of the five-month dash: that’s how long your COLP has to get the firm’s house in order before they become responsible for compliance. Like bog-snorkelling and extreme ironing, the five-month dash is a niche sport, unlikely to grace the Olympics, but pundits are predicting there’ll be a least 11,000 participants by the end of the year.
Law firms need to establish policies on whistleblowing and the interest they pay to clients, according to a leading regulatory solicitor. Other key issues troubling firms include preparing a business plan and compliance with provisions on outsourcing.
Lisa Dixon from the Institute of Legal Finance & Management argues that firms should consider issuing separate terms and conditions with their client-care letters that deal specifically with the issues around client funds.
The government today dropped the idea of creaming off interest from solicitors’ client accounts to offset the cost of legal aid. The decision will come as a small consolation to legal aid law firms, which the Ministry of Justice impact assessment says will earn, along with barristers, £430m less from legal aid than they do now.
When then shadow justice minister Henry Bellingham last year floated the idea that some client account interest should be applied to the legal aid fund rather than solicitors’ pockets, some thought it one of the barmier suggestions of ways to supplement public funding. But even though Mr Bellingham has moved on, the idea has not, as proved by this week’s legal aid green paper.
The government will push ahead with plans to take client account interest and apply it to the legal aid fund irrespective of the possible impact on clients and solicitors, an equalities impact assessment indicates.
Solicitors could be struck off for failing to pay the interest they have made on client accounts to the government, under proposals released today. The interest would be used to bolster the legal aid fund after the Ministry of Justice today unveiled a package to cut as much as £440m from the legal aid budget. The Jackson reforms will be implemnted but with possible “refinements”.