The Solicitors Regulation Authority today vowed to deal ‘robustly’ with firms that have still yet to reveal their insurance position – but is still refusing to identify those on its list.
The regulator has attempted to make contact with each of the 117 firms that were facing closure on 29 December at the end of their extended policy period (EPP). However, it is understood that the exact number that survived is still unknown because so many firms have failed to respond to enquiries.
The EPP was created to offer firms a 90-day window to secure insurance by 1 October, but a number have yet to answer emails or calls from the SRA over the past week.
There is now mounting concern that some could still be practising without any insurance cover, and the SRA has said it will make sure those firms do not carry out any further work on live matters.
Those failing to co-operate will face immediate enforcement action, and the Gazette understands that the SRA is prepared to contact landlords to gain entry to law firm offices if they still fail to respond.
Mike Haley, SRA director of supervision, said: ‘We accept that facing closure is a difficult situation for firms, so, during the EPP, we endeavoured to protect clients’ interests while also making sure we did not add to the pressure the firms were under. However, since no firm should now be carrying out live matters unless they have secured a new policy, our primary concern is that consumers are not put at risk.
‘Firms without insurance should not be practising, they should not be working on live matters and, above all, they should have informed us of their position. Those that continue to avoid disclosing their situation to us will be dealt with robustly.’
Discussions are continuing within the SRA about whether those firms that failed to secure insurance by 29 December should be named in the interests of clients.
The regulator said it has worked with all firms in the EPP to ensure they were prepared for the end of the period and could cease trading in an orderly way.
The firms have been aware that they were unable to accept new instructions since 31 October, and that they should have finalised all existing matters or arranged their transfer to other firms, with the client’s consent, by 29 December 2013.