Book review of ‘The Law of Legal Services’ (1st Ed) (2015)

 In Book Reviews for Private Client practitioners, Practice Management

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Author: John Gould + contributors
Published by Jordan Publishing Limited Book review

Purpose

“This book deals with the complex systems that regulate the provision of legal services and the risks faced by individual lawyers in their day to day work” so says the author John Gould of Russell-Cooke LLP. The important point here is that it is not about the regulation of solicitors (although that accounts for much of the book) it is about the way in which legal services are now regulated irrespective of who is offering those services.

Since the Legal Services Act 2007 there are nine ‘front line’ regulators overseen by the Legal Services Board whose remit is to ensure only those authorised to do so undertake ‘reserved legal activities’. Given the narrow scope of ‘reserved legal activities’ there are plenty of providers of unregulated services which have no oversight in place apart from general consumer law.

For the users and providers of legal services this is a comprehensive book covering the work of all nine regulators. The complex and maze-like structure of legal regulation needs a clear map to find your way through, which this book provides.

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Content, Structure & Layout

This book is divided into thirteen chapters and offers an additional online resource to keep up to date with developments at www.legalserviceslaw.co.uk

Chapter 1 tackles the regulatory framework itself from the Legal Services Act 2007 through to the profession based regulation to the complaints handling system to the Legal Ombudsman.

Chapter 2 deals with authorisation to practice and covers the requirements of each of the professional bodies.

Chapter 3 sets out the regulatory codes and compliance requirements including dealing with clients, conflicts of interest and confidentiality and disclosure.

Chapter 4 covers misconduct from unauthorised practice to unfitness to practice; from fraud to the responsibility of the COLP and COFA.

Chapter 5 focuses on supervision, investigation and enforcement examining each topic for the different regulators especially solicitors and the costs of intervention in a solicitors practice.

Chapter 6 describes the workings of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the equivalent bodies.

Chapter 7 explores the client contract.

Chapter 8 covers fiduciary and other duties and the always topical ‘Legal Professional Privilege’.

Chapter 9 examines lawyers’ negligence from the scope of the retainer, standard of care, compensation schemes to limitation defences. There is a part on the procedure to adopt when embarking on negligence claims and three areas of practice investigated: litigation; conveyancing and Wills & probate.

Chapter 10 summarises the indemnity insurance and compensation funds for each of the regulated professions and looks at the problems associated with obtaining insurance, the terms offered; who is covered; dishonesty and the insurer’s solvency.

Chapter 11 investigates the protection of lawyers’ goodwill.

Chapter 12 digs into the nutty problem of lawyers’ fees from the professional rules regarding charging to recovery costs and the rights of others to assessment of costs. It covers conditional fee agreements and third party funding.

Chapter 13 tackles the business of running a legal practice in particular the choice of business medium used and the protections it provides against liability, or not, as the case may be.

Tools

There are no checklists, questionnaires, templates or examples in this book just a comprehensive text on the relevant regulatory framework with cross references to each of the regulatory regimes used by each of the nine regulators.

Clarity & readability

For a subject clouded by lack of clarity it is to the author’s credit that this text is readable and clear e.g. paragraph 1.17 says “ The 2007 Act also heralded an era of ‘entity regulation’ – regulation of the practice as well as the individual lawyer – which had previously only existed in relation to incorporated practices. This has given rise to an additional level of complexity, since individual lawyers are regulated by the body through which they qualified, but may work in an entity regulated by another regulator. Accordingly, two sets of regulatory requirements could apply, which may be in conflict.”

Equally there are useful reminders and warnings like paragraph 3.181 which says “Regulators (particularly the SRA) publish warnings from time to time as to particular risks faced by lawyers……These warnings have a direct effect of allowing lawyers to avoid such activity but they also have an indirect effect of creating a presumption that a lawyer is aware of the warning and its content. In appropriate cases, this may be relevant to culpability.” It then goes on to list the relevant ones for solicitors.

Because the book covers each regulatory body it provides useful intelligence on the structure and powers of bodies such as the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), which may prove helpful to a solicitor dealing with a member of the CLC in a particular transaction. Similarly, understanding the role and ambit of the Bar Standards Board which regulates roughly 15,000 barristers and their chambers enables a practitioner who is dealing with a particular set to be clear on the rules of engagement.

Relevance to practitioners

This text is no doubt essential for those acting in the role of COLP and COFA in solicitors’ firms it is also going to be of increasing relevance as different types of practice consider mergers and acquisitions. For the individual it might provide the answer as to the question, which type of organisation do I wish to work in and for entities it will help the decision-making process as to which regulatory regime is the one for that entity.

All in all, whilst not a book to take on your summer holiday, it is a comprehensive and readable text on the regulatory framework governing the practice of law and so a copy should be in the office of each entity practising to-day as a tool of reference.

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