Insolvencies in the legal sector are set to double this year if trends seen in the first quarter of 2018 continue, indicating a possible downturn in the fortunes of law firms, it has been claimed. The figures also indicate that law firms may be waiting too long before seeking help.
The risk of solicitors being landed with hefty VAT bills for electronic property searches has become a reality for at least one law firm, which has now received a demand from HM Revenue & Customs for tens of thousands of pounds. It has heightened the call for the tax treatment of postal and electronic searches to be made consistent.
A payment processor has taken the place of conveyancers in handling the finances on completion day in what has been claimed to be the UK’s first fully digital mortgage settlement. It could spell the end to clients waiting with the removal van in the afternoon for money to be transferred between lawyers.
Small and mid-sized law firms need to accept that lower levels of profitability are becoming the “new normal”, it was claimed yesterday. Their income is also falling, with firms of 11-25 partners recording the biggest drop last year – 11% – compared to only 1% for sole practitioners.
The number of qualified accountants’ reports due to rule breaches has fallen by two-thirds since the rules were changed in 2015, but the amount then being investigated for possible rule breaches has tripled, it has emerged. A handful of them have led to regulatory action as a result.
Profit per equity partner is down by 10%, although other performance indicators are up, according to an influential benchmarking report of SME law firms, published today. However, although PEP was down – from £120,000 last year to £108,000 – median fees per equity partner were up by an inflation-busting 5.4% to £539,000 last year.
Twice as many large City law firms had adopted ‘agile working’ policies by the start of 2018 as had a year earlier, and have been quicker than non-law businesses to embrace artificial intelligence technology, according to a survey about office use. Between them, the top 100 firms – when ranked by office floorspace in London – spend a total of £495m per annum on rent.
A City law firm partner who had to pay £215,000 to settle his debt to the bank of his former firm, which had gone bust, was not able to deduct it from his earnings at his new firm for tax purposes, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Law firm faces £68,000 VAT bill after tribunal rules electronic property search fees are not disbursements
A leading north-west law firm has been ordered to pay £68,000 in VAT for electronic local authority property searches it procured from an agency, after a tribunal ruled that they should not have been treated as disbursements. The case, in which the Law Society unsuccessfully intervened, could have significant repercussions for many conveyancing firms.
A sole practitioner who did not have a client account and admitted using his office account “at times as a personal account” has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The tribunal heard that Michael Healey, based in Liverpool, misappropriated over £31,000 of client money before going bankrupt.
It’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, but let’s see if we can design a business model that is doomed to struggle and which will ensure that we miss out on the profit and cash opportunities that come with providing high-value services at high prices in a near-monopoly situation.
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