When we established ourselves as a law firm in 2003, very few UK firms had a General Counsel, there was no SRA, so no compliance officers, Limited Liability Partnerships had only just become a possibility for law firms in England & Wales, law firms had yet to be drawn into the regulated sector for AML, the conflicts rule had not been clearly articulated, and there were no Alternative Business Structures (ABSs).
Since then we have advised several hundred law firms and other professional firms, insurers and regulators across the UK, USA, Europe, Asia and Australia. Many involve ‘bet the business’ issues, and many more involve keeping firms out of trouble.
There seems little reason to suspect that the pace of change will reduce over next 15 years. However, among the risk predictions in our first newsletter were computer viruses, email scams, civil liability from AML requirements, government and insurance industry pressures to reduce personal injury costs, VAT errors resulting in penalties, emerging data protection issues, discrimination claims against law firms, and increasing numbers of large professional indemnity claims. Plus çan change…
What can we expect for the next 15 years?
- A proliferation of policy coverage disputes, if the SRA’s reforms go ahead?
- Loss of discipline in handling of client money, with changes to the SRA Accounts Rules?
- Clients’ interests being sacrificed to commercial interests, by non-lawyer owners of law firms (though not yet manifesting itself)?
- Solicitors being attacked as attitudes shift towards tax avoidance, money laundering and the like?