News round-up: expands, firm recruits COLP, will-writer training boost, and much more expands

Bicester and Buckingham-based Alfred Truman Solicitors has become the latest law firm to join the network, which now has a presence in 12 locations around England and Wales.

Alfred Truman handles private client, litigation, family and conveyancing. Senior partner Howard Meakin said: “With the changes introduced by the Legal Services Act and the pressures that small firms face, we want to ensure that our firm continues to be able to provide a first class service in our communities.

“We have looked at a number of legal brands and networks and embodies the same ethos as us; great quality legal advice with a personal touch.”

Jandu: ensuring compliance is a challenging process

Firm recruits COLP

Sheffield law firm Taylor&Emmet has hired Gurchan Jandu, former joint management partner of Zermansky & Partners in Leeds, as its first compliance and risk manager. She will also become the firm’s compliance officer for legal practice.

Ms Jandu said: “I will be streamlining aspects of existing systems and keeping under review processes and procedures that will allow the firm to continue to deliver the highest standards of service. Ensuring compliance with the ever-increasing legal and regulatory obligations imposed on law firms is a challenging process but one which ultimately must be embraced in this new legal era.”

Taylor&Emmet chief executive Anthony Long added: “Keeping abreast of the legal and administrative requirements placed on law firms is extremely time-consuming… Gurchan will be a highly visible presence within the firm.”

There has been speculation that the introduction of the compliance officer roles could in time lead to a recruitment market in people specialising in the posts.

Wiggin unveils joint venture

Cheltenham-based media practice Wiggin has launched intelligent content protection business Incopro Ltd, in partnership with Bret Boivin, formerly of Warner Bros and NBC Universal.

The new company will offer content companies a range of real-time and adaptive technology solutions, delivering a full view of unlawful activity on the Internet. It will then protect companies’ rights with a “highly accurate and targeted enforcement capability that blends pioneering Internet landscape analysis with sophisticated take-down facilities”.

Incorpro founder Simon Baggs, partner at Wiggin and head of the firm’s IP/rights protection practice, said: “We are the first to pioneer such an all-inclusive service, combining technical and legal advice under one roof. Bret’s phenomenal experience will bring the expert insight required to perfect this unique resource for our clients. This is a cutting-edge service that will empower rights owners to know the issues they are facing and tackle piracy at its source.”

Manchester firm launches divorce service for the over-60s

Manchester firm Slater Heelis has unveiled a ‘Silver Separation’ suite of legal services aimed at the growing number of people over 60 looking to divorce.

Partner Mark Heptinstall said: “Divorce for the over 60s is much less about childcare, access and maintenance – and more about a clean break and an independent future. However there can be a lot of resentment from the family, particularly if the divorce is not a joint decision and if either party choose to marry again, there are many financial and estate issues to consider when new step-families come into the picture.”

Justice minister attacks claims companies over PPI

The government has hit out at claims management companies targeting people over possible payment protection insurance mis-selling claims.

Speaking in a House of Lords debate this week, justice minister Lord McNally said: “It is an area where consumers have not been best served and where they are not aware that there are many simpler ways of reclaiming this money than paying exorbitant fees to claims management companies.”

The minister emphasised that “regulations and protection for the consumer are in place” to ward against practices such as bogus claims and cold-calling, but “we possibly need greater awareness among consumers of their rights”. He agreed to meet Lord Kennedy of Southwark – who has been campaigning on the issue – and consumers’ representatives “to discuss how consumers can keep more of their money”.

Money laundering warning for lawyers

Police are entitled to rely on intelligence information and information provided by solicitors is suspicious activity reports (SAR) when they are assessing whether it is appropriate to apply for a warrant to search the solicitor’s office or to arrest the solicitor on suspicion of money laundering offences, the Law Society has reported in the wake of the recent High Court ruling in Fitzpatrick and others v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2012] EWHC 12 (QB).

The court dismissed claims that the police had breached the human rights of two solicitors from the same firm when they executed a search warrant on their office and arrested them in 2007.

One of the issues in the case was the point at which in preparing a transaction solicitors should make an SAR. The society said the court cautioned against a too legalistic approach to what constitutes preparatory steps in transactional work and what constitutes actually becoming a party to an arrangement caught by section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

“The case clearly demonstrates the importance of making a suspicious activity report as soon as a suspicion is held, for drafting consent applications broadly and for considering whether it is appropriate in all of the circumstances to continue acting for a client,” the society said in a briefing.

Bid to improve will-writing standards

The Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) has joined forces with ILEX Tutorial College (ITC) – the training arm of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives – to help improve standards in the unregulated will-writing sector.

The agreement will see IPW members study: the ILEX Level 3 units on wills and succession, probate practice, and practice of law for the elderly client; and the ILEX Level 6 units on wills and succession, probate practice, and equity and trusts.

Anyone who passes the Level 3 wills and succession unit will be exempt from the IPW entrance examination, while will-writers can use their passes in these units towards qualification as chartered legal executive lawyers should they wish to continue their studies.

IPW chairman Paul Sharpe said: “Although will writing is currently unregulated in England and Wales, we have always strived to set the highest standards in our sector, from training and examinations, to insurance, and our code of practice which has been approved by the Office of Fair Trading under its Consumer Codes Approval Scheme. This exciting agreement is another piece of that jigsaw.”

Noel Inge, managing director of ITC, added: “Clients using will-writers trained by our organisations will have peace of mind that they are dealing with advisors who have committed themselves to gaining expertise through appropriate training.”

The Legal Services Board is currently investigating whether to make will-writing a reserved legal activity.

Bar bias claims rejected

The Visitors to the Inns of Court – who hear appeals against decisions of the Bar’s disciplinary tribunal – have rejected suggestions that lay members of tribunals and the Visitors are tainted because they receive fees, expenses, guidance and training from the Bar Standards Board.

Ruling in the case of Leathley v Bar Standards Board in January, Mr Justice Burnett said it was a “mischaracterisation” to say this meant lay members are paid by the prosecution, and argued that no fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias.



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