News in brief: practising costs fall 23%, better service for Shoosmiths clients, and more

Wotton: new man at the helm for the Law Society

Cost of practising falls 23%

The Law Society council yesterday approved the Solicitors Regulation Authority board’s recommendation to cut the cost of practising by 23%.

As first reported on Legal Futures, the individual practising certificate fee will drop from £428 to £328 to reflect the £94.8m net funding requirement for 2012, compared to the £121.7m funding requirement this year. Fees paid by law firms will fall by the same proportion.

Contributions to the Solicitors Compensation Fund will, however, soar, from £10 to £60 for individuals, and £120 to £770 for firms.”

The practising fees will now be sent to the Legal Services Board for approval.

Meanwhile, the society has welcomed the Legal Services Consumer Panel’s . Chief executive Des Hudson said: “We urge the Legal Services Board to implement, as soon as practical, arrangements to make will-writing a regulated activity. The society will provide any assistance that it can to assist this.

“We strongly support steps to improve training in the market and will be looking ourselves at initiatives to provide support and encourage improved standards for solicitors.”

Finally, John Wotton, a consultant at City giant Allen & Overy, yesterday took over as the new Law Society president.

Service standards

Access Legal, national law firm Shoosmiths’ consumer brand, has joined the Institute of Customer Service. The firm said the move will help support its “key strategic aim of delivering the highest levels of client and customer service”.

Claire Rowe, chief executive of Shoosmiths, said: “One of the reasons we chose to join the Institute is because it’s recognised as the leading body in its field by so many of our clients. And it would be wonderful to think that as the first top 30 law firm to join it, we might just be setting a new benchmark for the legal industry.”

Bevan Brittan called to the Bar

National law firm Bevan Brittan has won a tender to advise the Bar Standards Board (BSB) on its plans for regulating advocacy-focused legal businesses. The firm, a Legal Futures Associate, will help develop a framework for the regulation of legal businesses, introduce a new code of conduct for the Bar, and increase the BSB’s regime to allow barristers with the relevant training to conduct litigation.

The initial contract will run until mid September, with the ability to commission additional work as and when required. It is anticipated that the BSB will publish a consultation on its proposed frameworks for litigation and business regulation in October, and issue a new code of conduct in 2012.

Big in Belfast

City firm Herbert Smith has formally opened its Belfast office, located on the site of the former Belfast Gasworks, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. The office will focus on large-scale document-intensive aspects of litigation, arbitration and regulatory investigations. 

The office currently has a total of 26 full-time employees, including 19 fee-earners, both qualified and not. The vast majority has been hired from the local market or are qualified lawyers from Northern Ireland who have trained in England and have returned home. 

The firm said client demand meant a further 12 fee-earners will join the firm in the coming months, and it has plans to create around 50 more jobs in the next five years.

Invest Northern Ireland has offered £734,000 of support towards the jobs created so far, which will generate £3.1m annually in salaries and benefits in Northern Ireland by 2016, and around half that for the next 50.

On the Edge

Well-known law firm consultant Nick Jarrett-Kerr and Chris Bull, outgoing global head of business solutions at outsourcing provider Integreon, have joined legal and professional services consulting firm Edge International to build up the its operation in the UK and Europe.  

Mr Jarrett-Kerr was managing partner of Bevan Ashford for eight years, while Mr Bull, a non-lawyer, was once chief executive of Bristol-based law firm Osborne Clarke.

Online banking for solicitors

Saffron Building Society, the regional mutual serving East Anglia, has launched what it claims is a unique online reserve account for solicitors. The account is designed to hold non-designated client funds and offers immediate access.

The account can be opened with a minimum of £1,000 and has a maximum balance of £5m. Accounts with funds of £50,000 pay an interest rate of 1.75% (gross/AER pa), dropping to 1.5% below that level. Payment to the account is made via electronic transfer and can be added to the account via direct payment or direct debit by either transferring online or by phone.

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