The Dangers of Taking on Work Beyond the Capacity of The Firm

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has imposed a fine of £2000 on a compliance officer and manager for permitting his firm to take on work in areas of the law in which his staff lacked skills or experience. The regulatory body found that the manager of London firm SLA Solicitors, demonstrated a ‘disregard for regulatory obligations’ and his mismanagement consequently allowed for almost £58,000 in client monies to be held by the firm, despite the absence of a secure client account.

Misconduct Uncovered by The Solicitors Regulation Authority

The firm was instructed on a probate matter in December 2017, which they decided to progress, despite the firm as a whole and the fee-earner assigned to it having no prior experience in this field.

The SRA investigation uncovered multiple failings in relation to the handling of the case:

  • £58,000 of client estate monies was received without the firm having a client account and having failed to undertake any client due diligence to confirm identity
  • £6,000 in debts owed by the estate were not detected by the firm before the monies were distributed to beneficiaries
  • The firm failed to identify potential beneficiaries with equal or greater claims to the estate
  • A total of £37,600 was paid out to third parties inappropriately, including to settle hospital bills for relatives of the deceased

The following year, the firm was instructed on a commercial matter, which they again decided to progress with no previous experience in the field

Despite the commercial matter being transferred to another firm only three months after instruction, SLA Solicitors received £62,000 in total between this and the probate matter.

Conclusion

It is vitally important that law firms are not tempted by the prospect of increased fees, to take on work which they are either unqualified to do, or too busy to carry out properly.  This has also been an issue recently with the huge increase in conveyancing workloads resulting in solicitors “working all hours” to try to meet deadlines and letting unqualified staff handle files.  This sort of pressure cannot be good for the client.

At A M Davies we do not take on more work than we can properly do, or involve ourselves in matters in which we have no previous experience.  As a result, we often receive referrals from other firms, and reciprocate where appropriate – all in the best interests of our clients.