On 6 October 2010 the professional rules of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) were amended to oblige those regulated by the SRA to draw attention to or “signpost” the existence of a new destination for clients’ complaints about their solicitor. It is hardly surprising that with “signposts” in terms of business, on bills and firm’s web sites clients should follow the signs and began to complain, some 35,000 in the first year alone.
LeO eventually resolved to publish the names of those law firms which had been the subject of a decision by LeO since April 2012. The first publication occurred on 17 September 2012 and comprises the names of 772 law firms. There were some 992 decisions, of which 490 (53%) did not lead to a remedy being ordered. Of the 47% which led to a decision the average award was in the band £299-£499.
Name and shame provides those running law firms with a challenge and an opportunity. Whilst the statistics show that, for the most part, law firms provide an excellent service that hard earned reputation may be threatened by publication. The commercial implications of publication should spur managers to create a focus throughout their firms on avoiding complaints which emphasises the importance of treating clients with respect. Even in the best run law firms things do occasionally go wrong and in those cases fee earners need to strive for outcomes which leave no bitter taste and therefore less likely to lead to referral to LeO and the dreaded publication.
Competing with businesses like the Co-Op with a primary focus on the customer experience ensuring their clients are not just satisfied but delighted to have been a client. Law firms must adopt a similar approach and encourage that in all staff at all levels. Publication of complaints should change the focus on complaints handling from reactionary catch up to embedding a pro-active consumer positive attitude in all fee earners. If firms do not change they are likely to find the market has left them behind.
TONY N GUISE is a solicitor and director of GUISE Solicitors Limited – a law firm specialising in advising solicitors about all aspects of compliance and regulatory investigation.
We are now receiving instructions arising from the COLP/COFA suitability process following the dispatch of letters by the SRA to affected individuals over the last few weeks. If anyone is struggling with this please contact us as we have plenty of experience with both the former and the present Suitability Test. We will address the nuances of this in the COLP/COFA context in a briefing paper coming out later this month.
Another law firm – Shammah Nicholls – has been acquired from a pre-pack administration by Linder Myers and we now see more and more firms of all sizes being acquired and forced into mergers to save themselves, … but at great personal cost to the partners of the ailing firms.
If you’re struggling with finances, don’t leave it too late or you will lose control of your options to turn the business around or get out on the best possible terms. Jon Miller here has a wealth of experience of working with law firms on initiatives to produce cash quickly to deal with the immediate problem … and building in longer term improvements in profitability.
Contact Jon Miller now for a confidential, no obligation review of your options on 07766 137759 or at email@example.com if you think you’re struggling. He’ll let you know if he can help at the stage you have reached today.
Surefire signs that you need help:
- Cash has been tight on occasions – maybe drawings had to be reduced to pay VAT.
- You’ve been on the edge of your overdraft a couple of times
- There’s been a panic when some significant bill has to be paid.
- You have already taken steps to reduce costs.
- You can’t afford a senior financial manager in-house.
- Your lawyers are too busy working to spend time getting unpaid fees and disbursements in.
- Drawings haven’t gone up.
- The bank is asking for more information than before
1 October 2012 – news that another firm didn’t respond early enough.
Linder Myers has rescued a second Manchester firm under a pre-pack administration. The ambitious firm has taken on 16 staff after buying Shammah Nicholls LLP – most recently trading as SNG Commercial Law – from administrators Begbies Traynor. Late last year Linder Myers took on Rowlands Field Cunningham after it too ran into financial difficulties . Sources said SNG Commercial, which had a turnover of around £1.8m had stuggled to service high bank borrowings – it is understood to have owed lender Allied Irish Bank around £800,000. Accounts filed in May for Shammah Nicholls LLP reveal the firm owed its bank more than £850,000 in loans and overdraft – with some £704,570 due within a year. Loans and other debts due to members amounted to £563,833. Paul Stanley and Dean Watsion from the Manchester office of insolvency firm Begbies Traynor were appointed to the business on Friday and quickly agreed a deal with Linder Myers, which has been expanding rapidly in recent months. The firm now has 275 employees and 47 partners across its offices in Manchester, Shrewsbury and Lancashire. Courtesy of TheBusinessDesk.com
But Shammah Nicholls are not alone and it’s not just small firms that need help.
GROWING in South Yorkshire will be the focus of the law firm created by the acquisition of the business of Lee & Priestley by Lupton Fawcett confirmed this morning. The firm will be known as Lupton Fawcett Lee & Priestley employing around 270 staff at its offices in Leeds and Sheffield. Lupton Fawcett’s Richard Marshall will be the firm’s managing director.
He said: “The addition of the first class team from Lee & Priestley represents a great step forward in our journey to achieve our strategy of developing the firm best capable of meeting the needs of our regions wealth creators for commercial advice in their business capacities, and their need for wealth preservation services in their private capacities. “We are very interested to speak to first class Sheffield lawyers wanting to make themselves and their teams part of Lupton Fawcett Lee & Priestley’s fast developing and exciting future.
We fully intend to grow our South Yorkshire offering to respond to the needs of that market with the help of the best talent in that area.” Former Lee & Priestley managing partner James Richardson will join the firm’s management and strategy boards. He said: “We are delighted to be able to bring Lupton Fawcett’s breadth of offering to our clients, whilst at the same time being able to boost Lupton Fawcett’s offering in so many areas, together we are well placed to meet the challenges of an increasingly demanding and sophisticated market.”
Courtesy of TheBusinessDesk.com