Law Society Legal News Summary 1 August 2022

 Register of Overseas Entities 

Today’s Conveyancer, Inside Conveyancing, Law360 (£), Solicitors Journal, Law Society Gazette Ireland all cover our guidance for solicitors ahead of the launch of the Register of Overseas Entities (ROE) today. 

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We have long supported UK government’s overarching ambition to improve transparency of ownership, including the introduction of the register. 

“However, we have expressed significant concerns as to the expectations which may be placed on solicitors to verify the accuracy of information put onto the register. 

“We have prepared this guidance to support members in navigating the verification procedure under the ROE during the opening phase of the regime.” 

Read our press release

Human Rights Act reforms 

Global Citizen takes a deep dive into changes the UK government wants to make to the Human Rights Act via the Bill of Rights Bill, which is due its second reading in the House of Commons on 12 September. 

The piece cites our position on the Bill, which we described as a “lurch backwards for British justice.” 

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LSB standards of competence 

Local Government Lawyer, Law360 (£) and the Gazette cover the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) new statutory statement of policy requiring legal services regulators to set standards of competence, investigate lawyers’ competence and set measures to ensure standards are maintained. 

Law Society vice president Lubna Shuja said: “Collecting data to assess the competence of the profession will allow regulators to address the public perception of competence issues which was identified by the LSB. It will also allow regulators to identify and address, in a targeted way, any issues that may arise. 

“We will continue to liaise with the LSB and the Solicitors Regulation Authority on the implementation of this policy and will support our members in adapting to any changes made.” 

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Criminal defence veteran given Crown Court valedictory 

Bill Waddington, a member of our criminal law committee who is retiring after 40 years, has been honoured with a Crown Court valedictory, reports the Gazette

Judge John Thackray QC said Bill Waddington is “hugely liked among criminal defence lawyers the length and breadth of Britain” and “he always had a smile on his face, although often a wry smile. Defence barristers owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”

Digital assets 

Today’s Wills & Probate reports the Law Commission’s proposals to reform the law around digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and crypto-tokens. 

The article cites our 2020 Populus survey research, which found that only 26% of respondents said they knew what would happen to their digital assets after they die. Of those surveyed with a will, 93% had not included any digital assets in their will. 

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Compulsory mediation 

In July, the government launched a consultation on proposals to resolve most small claims cases of up to £10,000 through mediation. 

Lubna Shuja told Today’s Wills & Probate: “It is encouraging to see the government looking for ways to reduce the court backlogs and ensure disputes are resolved quickly and at minimal cost. 

“However, if parties are not interested in entering into mediation in good faith it could waste time as well as money, and there is a further risk that mediation may entrench imbalances of power between parties. 

“The mediation service needs to be properly funded and well-resourced to facilitate these proposals. With proper funding, it could help reduce the court backlogs. 

“We will consider the proposals carefully to see whether they contain sufficient safeguards to ensure they contribute to justice rather than undermine it.” 

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SIF to be underwritten by the SRA 

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has agreed to underwrite Solicitors Indemnity Fund  liabilities of up to £6 million for a year from this September. 

A Law Society spokesperson told the Gazette: “We welcome the SRA’s recognition of its responsibility for indemnity arrangements that protect the users of legal services and address consumer detriment. 

“We also welcome the SRA’s decision to further extend the Solicitors Indemnity Fund and to underwrite it until the end of September 2023. 

“This is a responsible course of action while the regulator considers options for providing continued consumer protection in a proportionate way.” 

Read more about the Solicitors Indemnity Fund

Probate update 

STEP covers the latest news on the probate service by HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS). 

Citing our July 2022 update, the article notes there were 22,791 applications received and 25,096 grants issued in May. 

Digital applications waited 13.5 weeks with stops and 4.1 weeks without stops to be granted. 

Stops continue to impact timeliness and HMCTS is concentrating on ways to drive these down, as well as looking at how it can make internal processes more efficient.

Also worth a read: 

  • Euros 2022: Lionesses bring it home in 2-1 victory – BBC
  • CILEX attempts to divorce its regulator – Gazette
  • AG denies lawyer crackdown over ministers’ policies – Evening Standard
  • SRA fines over AML compliance obligations – City A.M.
  • Golden era of lawyers’ pay set to come to an end? – Times (£)

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