'If the SRA hopes to change the way legal advice for immigration is provided, it first needs to draft clear guidelines'
Plans to let solicitors offer immigration advice from unregulated entities were sensibly postponed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) back in November (SRA shelves immigration advice changes).
Had the plans proceeded, a knock-on effect would have been that members of our profession outside of registered firms could have supervised anyone regardless of their own or the supervisee’s ability to provide immigration advice. This would have circumvented almost all legal controls on how immigration advice is provided by non-lawyers, which is one of the reasons we fought the proposals.
It is in the public interest that everyone giving legal advice in a high stakes area of law such as immigration is clearly accountable to a regulator. If the SRA hopes to change the way legal advice for immigration is provided, it first needs to draft clear guidelines to ensure watertight accountability between supervising immigration solicitors, the people they supervise, and their clients.
Law Society Immigration Law Committee
Insurers in glass houses
I read with interest your article ‘Aviva demands PI solicitors be forced to disclose claim source’ on 8 November. As an ethical claims management company and provider of personal injury leads to law firms, we would have no issue with our clients identifying us as the source of their cases. There is no reason to argue against transparency here.
However, the insurance industry needs to take care while throwing stones. Our analysis indicates that most road traffic accident cases are referred by insurers, whether to the alternative business structures many own/co-own or otherwise (Aviva, it is important to note, does not own one).
In addition, insurers need to stop using data provided by their own clients to contact innocent, non-policyholder third parties without permission to offer their own claims management services.
By doing this, insurers are acting as unregulated claims management companies. Insurers need to admit to their own role in the trade of claims and misuse of information and put their own house in order before calling out solicitors.
The law firms that cold call and use nefarious practices represent the small minority and give the rest of us in the industry a bad name. It is important that there is more transparency in the sector and those who are acting unethically are kicked out. We urge the Financial Conduct Authority to take action.
Director of operations, First4Lawyers, Huddersfield
A judicial desert in Wiltshire
The news that Chippenham’s courthouse has been sold and is to be demolished to build a new Lidl supermarket compounds one of the most disgraceful of many episodes in the long-running saga of court closures.
Built with great fanfare and expense in 1997 – the final act of the last genuine lord chancellor – and boasting a bomb-proof structure unique in its time, it bridged an important gap in a geographically tall county between Salisbury in the deep south and Swindon in the far north.
Now the whole of central Wiltshire is a judicial desert and in no sense can its magistrates sitting at the extremes be seen to be serving the local interests of this abandoned population.
A victim of a particularly spurious exercise in assessing court usage, where only the hours actually utilised by the separate courts were taken into account, the authorities blandly ignored the strong case made by the district judge and many others, that time allocated for longer hearings should be taken into account.
It is common sense that the courts must be available for longer sittings, no matter that many in the event settle on the first day.
When so many courts around the country have been closed, ignoring the many cogent arguments made by the Law Society after careful investigation, it was easy to disguise the absurdity of throwing away an excellent modern facility in favour of tarting up an old and leaking existing court in Swindon.
Last of course to be considered– as usual – are the public who actually use the courts; and the hardship and expense involved in having to travel large distances across this rural county to receive justice.
The token counters in the Ministry of Justice have done a fine job of turning a silk purse into a sow’s ear and should live in infamy for this appalling episode.
Retired lawyer and recorder, Chippenham, Wiltshire
I have noted recent lurid headlines in the Gazette and elsewhere relating to the tribulations of certain members before the Solicitors Regulation Authority inquisition. And now the prospect of the inquisition ruling on drinking habits in particular and social conduct in general.
I suspect that if the current extreme of political correctness had existed in the not-too-distant past, many partners in well-known firms would have had to resign and then been hauled before the regulator.
When the new powers come into force, will we all be receiving questionnaires asking ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ and ‘Please supply the names and addresses of all mistresses since you qualified?’ This last question may, of course, breach data protection rules. City watering holes will be among those concerned about all this.
Seriously, I can only agree with Mr Katzen’s comment of 21 October that, not so long ago, these matters would have been rejected by the SRA as outside its remit. So they should be now. In appropriate circumstances, they are matters for the police or the courts – but not the SRA.
Retired solicitor, London
The admirably presented Law Society manifesto covered the many and widely perceived defects in our legal system and summarised what action is needed. I am sure members will be pleased with the representations on their behalf. The problem is that the present government machinery is inadequate to provide a sensible response. Tony Blair destroyed the lord chancellor’s office but not his robes.
This office needs to be reinstated and staffed accordingly to make progress with the urgent reforms set out in the manifesto. Someone of the stature of the late Lord Mackay is sorely needed.