A fire drill at Chancery Lane last week left shirt-sleeved Law Society staff hopping from foot to foot on the ice outside. Yet there was a roseate glow emanating from a goodly number, particularly in policy – and it wasn’t the cold. ‘Lawyers 5, accountants 2,’ offered one observer, having just been told of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on the scope of legal professional privilege. The Society, of course, intervened in the case and deserves a share of the plaudits.
A few hundred yards away, in Moorgate Place, the mood was less jocose. Michael Izza, chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, called on parliament to act ‘as a matter of urgency’ now that the legal avenues are exhausted. This appears unlikely. As our analysis records parliament had the opportunity to revise the law in 2001 and declined to do so.
The legal profession will need to be vigilant nevertheless. The ICAEW – or more pertinently its principal constituents – are extremely powerful, and have a lot of clout in government. Those with longer memories will recall how, back in the 1990s, the then ‘big five’ persuaded the government to introduce limited liability partnerships to protect partners’ personal assets – almost as a favour, it seemed at the time.
This story may not end here.