Solicitors face daily reminders that they must not forget their core duties.

It is a poor manager who tells colleagues they have 10 priorities today. Yet it seems lawyers regularly arrive at work to an even longer list. Automation, price transparency, personal liability, Brexit, GDPR, diversity, NDAs, SRA consultations, cybercrime, liberalisation, cuts, PEP, directory rankings, competition, SQE, personal debt… actual lawyering is a task completed amid some very loud background noise. For a judge, as the lord chief justice told parliament last week, a working day can include death threats. 

There have, though, been some powerful reminders that Herman Hupfeld’s advice holds true – the fundamental things apply. Solicitors advising wealthy clients on tax and trusts risk criminal liability for any assistance deemed  to have assisted tax evasion (see feature, p18). Elite firm Allen & Overy’s role in drafting an NDA is under SRA scrutiny and attracting strong interest from MPs (see page 5). A firm was shut over suspicions of dishonesty and the levy on firms for the fund that compensates solicitors’ clients is up 42% this year.

Dropping a tier in the Legal 500, losing a client to a rival firm, making redundancies or falling profits – these are all bad days at the office. But mistakes in law, a breach of professional duties and neglecting one’s duty to the court – these are all much, much worse.

At present it seems solicitors face daily reminders of this reality.