Your letters to the editor
A third way to prosperity
Reading your commentary on the demise of MW Solicitors (Leader, 1 June), I can give the reason why this firm and possibly many others may go bust: they have not read the Micawber mantra.
I am a consultant for a firm I set up in 1995 which is still going strong despite Covid-19. The reason for this is that we never borrowed unless it was a term loan for a particular item, and we budgeted knowing we could make the monthly repayments.
We operated a ‘three times’ rule, after putting away sums to pay for necessities such as practising certificates. If we made more than we had budgeted for we used one third of that to improve something in the office, such as a photocopier upgrade. One third we ‘put away’ and one third we distributed.
When our bank manager suggested we were in a very good position (that is, we had money in the bank) so that he would lend us money to expand, both I and my two partners at the time responded with a resounding ‘no’.
We knew we served our community. We could monitor staff in a pleasant way so they all felt valued and therefore we did not have to spend time employing and training new staff. And we were making enough for a comfortable living. We paid reasonable salaries and other benefits to staff.
Why expand and take on more responsibilities? It seems daft to me.
Jennifer Margrave, Guildford, Surrey
We can’t socially distance foreverLord Sumption has put himself forward to vocalise the concerns of many that the lockdown is neither necessary nor effective, or indeed legal. The argument by Jonathan Compton (tinyurl.com/ybsqocxr) is flawed because he considers we ignore the ‘societal risk’. This is not ignored. As Lord Sumption has stated, the original intention behind the lockdown was to prevent the NHS being overrun. Four new hospitals were built that have since been mothballed and so it is clear that this aim has been achieved.
The emphasis has to be personal choice and the same applies to all parts of life. If a person chooses to drive at 90mph they know they are putting their life at risk. They will also (or should) know they will put others at risk, but all are aware of risks and prepared to take them or otherwise they would not leave their front door. The same applies to Covid-19. This is here to stay in one form or another and we simply cannot stop living and enjoying life because of the apparent risks. Those who do not wish to take any risks do not need to do so. If there is no vaccine then what does Mr Compton consider will be the next stage? That we continue living as we are and socially distance for the rest of our lives? That is absurd. The choice for young people would be to live as normal or have no job and a very uncertain future. I know which choice I would make.
This is about people making decisions for themselves and acting responsibly as far as possible. That can be achieved and the outcomes will be better than living in a false lockdown environment where the consequences are far worse.
Mark Williams, Solicitor, Donaldson West, Crowborough, East Sussex
Cutting retired solicitors looseI understand that there will be a meeting of the Solicitors Regulation Authority board [in July] to discuss the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) closure, currently due to take place in September. Although the Covid-19 crisis may delay closure, the issue remains.
After the end of the run-off period, in my case 2017, with no claims, I have relied on SIF for peace of mind. But I am extremely concerned for the future.
I understand that at present there is no market for professional indemnity insurance (PII) to fill the SIF gap, leaving retired solicitors at the mercy of claimants who make claims after the end of the primary limitation period. The financial success of such claims will depend on whether the solicitor concerned has assets to cover any judgment, so it is also in the public interest that former practitioners in my position continue to carry appropriate PII. Some 11% of claims against solicitors are made after the end of the six-year period, and in theory the solicitor, and indeed his or her estate, can be personally liable for unknown amounts of money for an unlimited period.
It cannot be right for the SRA to cut retired solicitors loose and leave them at risk of losing assets, in many cases their homes, where this situation can be avoided by giving proper consideration to this problem.
The Law Society ought to be taking steps to persuade the SRA either that the SIF should continue indefinitely, or that arrangements should be made to insure former practitioners, who in many cases will be liable for the negligence of employees of their firms from years ago and of which they were unaware. If necessary a fund could be set up from contributions by practising members.
I hope the Gazette will look into this matter and publicise the injustice and hardship that is likely to be caused if nothing is done.
Retired solicitor, Admitted 1975; name and address supplied
Probate poserI write regarding the letter concerning a person covenanting with himself (4 May).
I have been dealing with probate (inter alia) for over 40 years. I have never asked or been asked for an indemnity from a beneficiary. The SRA may find it acceptable but I find it most unusual.
If there is any doubt, the solicitor can protect themself by advertising for creditors. In most cases the indemnity would be of little use as the beneficiary would have spent the money anyway.
Howard Newton, Solicitor, Amersham, Bucks
Re ‘Kept hanging’ (letters, 1 June), I have had an even more frustrating experience calling my local court – admittedly before lockdown. On returning to the office I had a message from court staff asking me to call back to resolve a problem. I called the only number available, at the court’s central system, who said that despite the request they would not put me through.
Ken Gulati, White House Chambers, Sutton, Surrey