The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) should this week publish a list of those law firms which were to have closed on 29 December because they failed to secure professional indemnity insurance, Legal Futures has learned.
There has been a groundswell of concern among solicitors over the SRA’s admission last week that it was not sure whether all 116 affected firms had actually stopped practising.
There have been reports of law firms asking opposing solicitors for evidence of their insurance before remitting any money in conveyancing transactions.
The SRA has confirmed to us that a list is likely to be published on Friday.
We understand that reasons against doing this included that the SRA does not publicise other firms that close down, and that there would still be protection for clients through the compensation fund if a firm did practise without insurance.
As of 18 December, the SRA had established that there were 117 firms without PII; however, one managed to find insurance on 27 December. However, thus far the SRA has refused to say how many of the remaining firms have definitely closed their doors.
There was a spate of non-cooperation with the regulator as the 29 December deadline approached, even among firms that previously had been in contact, meaning some may now be operating without cover.
The SRA resorted last week to issuing a public warning to firms “to come clean about their insurance position”.
SRA guidance warns solicitors closing their firms that they must take care not to practise or be held out as practising when tying up loose ends. They would not be practising if they submit bills of costs, account to clients for monies held on their behalf, deal with outstanding balances under the SRA Accounts Rules or make arrangements for the disposal or safekeeping of old files and documents.
However, if they were to respond to a query from the Land Registry or submit an application for registration in respect of a client’s matter, they would be practising.
The court has accepted that solicitors who do not have a practising certificate may sign a bill of costs for work done when they did have such a certificate, but this must be made clear on the bill.
Solicitors can continue to use their firm’s notepaper in dealing with outstanding administrative tasks, but it needs to make clear that the firm has closed, as should responses to any telephone calls taken.