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Question of ethics

Important:The guidance below was written and issued following the introduction of the SRA Handbook on 6 October 2011. For earlier issues of Question of ethics, which may refer to regulatory material that is no longer in effect but may still be relevant, please see the Archive.

August 2014

In this issue:

  • My firm is holding £6,000 in the general client account which is made up of various individual balances due to different clients. We have attempted to return the money to them at the end of the retainer but are unable to locate them. Should I seek authorisation from the SRA to withdraw this money in order to pay it to a charity in accordance with rule 20.1(k) of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011?

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July 2014

In this issue:

  • My firm will be undertaking insurance mediation activities and wishes to be included on the Exempt Professional Firm Register (EPF) with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The managers need to appoint an insurance mediation officer whose name will appear on the register and they want me to undertake the role. Am I a suitable person to fulfil this role given that I am newly qualified as a solicitor? 

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May 2014

In this issue:

  • My firm was instructed by a lady to draft her will. The will was drafted but never executed. The draft will remained in the client's file and we heard nothing further from the client. We have just been contacted by the client's daughter who has provided us with a grant of probate showing that she was appointed as her mother's Executor in a will which was executed some time after the client instructed this firm. The daughter has asked us for the file containing the draft will which was never executed. Do we have to release the file to the daughter even if we believe that the client would not have wanted the daughter to know what was in the draft will?
  • I have been acting for a client in a very high cost criminal matter (VHCC), and the chambers I generally instruct on such matters has refused to take this matter on as a consequence of fee cuts. This would leave my client with no trial advocate.
  • If, in the scenario described above, I cannot find an available barrister from my usual chambers, should I consider instructing an advocate employed by the Public Defenders Service (PDS)?
  • My client is charged with an 'either way' offence. Having regard to the recent legal aid changes, can I limit my retainer to representing the client at the police station and magistrates court only?

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April 2014

In this issue:

  • In the February 2014 print edition of Compliance News Round-up, the first case study dealt with the bankruptcy of a sole practitioner. It referred to the fact that the solicitor's practising certificate would be automatically suspended and the solicitor would therefore need to employ another solicitor to operate the client account. Is this correct?

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March 2014

In this issue:

  • We have a shortfall of £100,000 on our firm's client account but this is through no fault of our own. It is entirely due to a bank error in the money being transferred by telegraphic transfer to the wrong person, despite our giving the bank the correct details. I am aware that Rule 7 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 requires missing client money to be replaced from the firm managers' own resources. Does this apply to us as the shortfall on client account was caused by the bank and not by anyone in our firm? 

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January 2014

In this issue:

  • I would like to offer a fixed fee arrangement to my clients so that they can be clear about their costs position. The monies will be paid upfront and they will be billed for the agreed sum at the end of the retainer. I understand this is an agreed fee under Rule 17.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and that the monies must go in to the office account. Is this correct?

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November 2013

In this issue:

  • I am one of the members in a recognised body which is an LLP (a law firm). The COFA in the firm, a solicitor, who was our Head of Finance, has resigned from her post and has confessed that she has been taking money from the firm's office account and has made arrangements to repay the money to the firm on an instalment basis. She has stolen money from the firm in the region of £100,000.

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September 2013

In this issue:

  • What is the position with regard to the Consumer Credit  Act group licence? What will be the position for firms under the new regime once this has transferred to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)?

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July 2013

In this issue:

  • We have recently taken over another firm. As the COFA, I am concerned about the number of old outstanding balances we have acquired in respect of which we do not have copies of the relevant ledgers or the relevant files. What should I do?

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June 2013

In this issue:

  • I have read Chapter 3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 in respect of conflicts of interest and in particular, Indicative Behaviour 3.14. Does this mean that it is no longer possible for a firm to act for both a buyer and seller in a conveyancing transaction?

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April 2013

In this issue:

  •  Is a reporting accountant required to check the register of breaches maintained by the firm's COFA? Is there an obligation on the firm to provide the accountant with this information?

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March 2013

In this issue:

  • I'm a solicitor carrying out insurance mediation activities. Is there anything I will need to do when the Financial Services Authority splits into the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Services Regulator?

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January 2013

In this issue:

  • I have read the Law Society Practice Note with regard to outsourcing. Can I assume that provided I follow this guidance, I will be in compliance with the SRA Handbook?

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December 2012

In this issue:

  • We have been contacted by the police, who want us to provide them with details of our client' address and telephone number because they suspect he has committed an offence. Should I provide this information to the police?

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November 2012

In this issue:

  • I am a solicitor in the Government Legal Service. As such, I am told that I do not need a practising certificate. However, I am being seconded to a private practice firm for a short period; does this alter the position?

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October 2012

In this issue:

  • I am currently an unemployed solicitor and have so far been unsuccessful in finding a job as a solicitor. Is there any problem with me accepting a job in my private practice as a paralegal?

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June 2012

In this issue:

  • Is it advisable to appoint a deputy COLP or COFA in case one of the compliance officers leaves or is absent?

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May 2012

In this issue:

  • Is there any advice you can offer us on the sort of people we should be nominating as COLP and COFA? Must it be the senior or managing partner?

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February 2012

In this issue:

  • Does the reference to an "individual" in rule 8 of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 include a body corporate? Our partnership is primarily made up of limited company partners.

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December 2011

In this issue:

  • I am the head of a legal department in a local authority. Do I need to include on my department's notepaper the fact that we are authorised by the SRA? 

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