The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) intervention into Midlands firm Blakemores is likely to cost the profession ‘£2-3m’, the firm’s managing partner told the Gazette the day after all 250 members of staff were told to clear their desks.
Guy Barnett said that £2-3m was his estimated cost of removing 7,500 live files from the firm’s offices, taking them to a storage facility, entering them on a database, writing to each client and finding them a new solicitor.
The SRA said it had intervened on the firm ‘in order to protect the interests of clients (or former or potential clients), or the interests of the beneficiaries of any trust of which Blakemores Solicitors LDP or any of the partners of Blakemores Solicitors LDP is or was a trustee’.
Barnett stressed that there has never been any question of ‘impropriety’. He said: ‘Practising certificates have not been suspended. The intervention arose from the cumulative effect of the recession, such as the unhelpful attitude of the banks and legal aid changes, all combining to break the camel’s back.’
The firm’s 1,500 personal injury claimants will be particularly disadvantaged by the intervention, Barnett said.
‘The SRA couldn’t have found a worse time to intervene. These clients have until 1 April to find a conditional fee agreement, after-the-event insurance cover and a new solicitor before the next round of legal aid changes comes into effect,’ he said.
A similar number of asylum cases under legal aid certificates are also to be without representation. Barnett said: ‘Who is going to reach all these clients and what will they do when they arrive at court and find their solicitor is not there?’
The intervention had the further effect of freezing the firm’s bank accounts at 10am on Monday, preventing staff from being paid, as previously arranged with the banks.
- The Law Society and Birmingham Law Society today issued a joint statement on Blakemores, stating that they have implemented an action plan to support all those affected by the recent collapse. It added: ‘A dedicated online information hub has been set up for the Blakemores’ 250 solicitors and employees based in Leamington and Birmingham. The Law Society and Birmingham Law Society are also working closely with the SRA to help orchestrate a smooth transfer of client files in partnership with the administrator. A further note will be issued shortly with the intention of offering a speedy process for Blakemores’ clients to transfer their files to other solicitors in the Birmingham area.’