The former chair of the Law Society’s land law and conveyancing committee, who was struck off last summer, has helped his wife set up an unregulated law firm, it has emerged.
Richard Barnett’s own conveyancing firm, Barnetts Solicitors, was broken up and sold to four different buyers after entering administration this time last year. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found that Mr Barnett had misused a £4.86m loan from Axiom Legal Financing.
Mr Barnett told Legal Futures he had lodged papers at the High Court last week appealing against his striking off. He said he was representing himself, though he hoped to get some help at a later stage.
He said that earlier last month he helped his wife Deborah, a former Granada TV journalist, set up an unregulated law firm in Stockport called Legal Heroes, to handle “low value, unregulated” matters.
“Unregulated law firms are the big growth area for consumers,” Mr Barnett said. “That’s what the LSB [Legal Services Board] thinks. It’s because of the cost of solicitors and the removal of legal aid. If you are unregulated, you can offer a cheaper service.
“Anybody can set up an unregulated law firm. It’s a question of understanding processes, not litigating. If it’s about litigation, we hand the case over to a panel law firm.”
Mr Barnett said his wife was sole director and owner of Legal Heroes, and his role was as consultant.
He said the firm could do “everything that isn’t regulated” and there were “a load of companies out there” providing unregulated services in the areas of employment law, health and safety, advice to small businesses on documents, and will drafting.
“Law is 90% administration and only 10% law,” Mr Barnett said. “Anyone can call themselves a lawyer, just as anyone can call themselves an accountant.”
He said that if Legal Heroes came across a “difficult issue which required a legal brain”, he might get involved.
Mr Barnett quoted from a report by the Law Society, published last week, on the future of legal services, which said: “Solicitors themselves may choose to shed the shackles of regulation and utilise their legal knowledge to work in or as unregulated providers.”
The former Law Society council member said that, as with the rest of the legal profession, there were some good unregulated firms and some which were “diabolical”.
He went on: “If I wanted to go out and advise people in trouble, who better than me? Who better to empathise with them, than me? I’m not doing it, but I could.”
Mr Barnett added that Legal Heroes aimed to “give something back to the community”.