Professional discipline update April 2020
Since our last update in January, things have been changing apace. We’re all adapting our ways of working to deal with the peculiarities of the situation created by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The situation is already - or will potentially become - difficult for many businesses, their staff, suppliers and clients. Owners and managers, especially, are having to make tough business, regulatory, employment and ethical decisions about how to balance the competing demands on their resources. But there are many challenges, also, for less senior colleagues, including ensuring they’re able to balance the demands of employers wanting to carry on business as usual, so far as possible, with those of home-schooling and caring for nursery age kids.
One of the best hashtags I’ve seen doing the rounds on social media in these extremely challenging times is an exhortation to #bekind. It’s a mantra that is often the first to fall by the wayside when stresses and pressures grow but I would urge everyone to keep it close to their hearts now and in the future.
Within our team, we have also seen some planned changes. In the first quarter of 2020 we welcomed two new team members and, as of 1 April, I became a Partner in Leigh Day and succeeded Frances at the head of the regulatory & disciplinary team, with Frances maintaining her position as the firm’s Managing Partner and key member of the team.
Although we’re now working from home, we are still available to hold a confidential, free and no obligation discussion with you about your needs and options. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you need to.
Adapting to the new normal
Whilst there are still government measures in place that mean we all need to work from home wherever possible, practitioners will need to keep reviewing and adapting how they and their teams are working and the service they are providing to their clients. Individuals will need to think about how to protect information from or about clients, what information, instructions and decisions they should be recording and how, and be alive to cyber-attacks, including the risks posed by these to client money. Managers will need to consider welfare of and supervision arrangements for staff, cashflow and business continuity.
Whilst none of these considerations is, in itself, new, the circumstances in which we’re now being expected to implement them is considerably changed. If you’re working through an issue and need some practical guidance and solutions, get in touch on 020 3780 0406 or at RDteam@leighday.co.uk.
Insurance in the time of coronavirus
On 7 April 2020, the Law Society published new guidance on renewing professional indemnity insurance (PII) during the current Covid-19 pandemic. The guidance takes the form of a list of “some of the issues and possible solutions” and supplements advice provided by the SRA as part of its coronavirus help with common compliance queries.
Both the SRA and the Law Society warn that it may be more difficult or costly for firms to get or renew PII cover in the current climate. The SRA notes that the “insurance market has been reporting publicly for some time that the PII market is hardening, which may mean premium increases”.
Although both the SRA and Law Society note that brokers may be facing delays in the current circumstances, the SRA has not relaxed any of its requirements. As such, firms looking to renew will have 90 days after the expiry of their existing cover to find alternative cover or close (the extended indemnity and cessation period). If a firm’s insurer becomes insolvent, they will have 28 days to find replacement cover.
With staff off sick or working remotely, it may be more difficult or time-consuming to follow the Law Society’s advice to put together full insurance proposals. You may want to schedule contact with brokers or insurers to look at renewal terms earlier than you ordinarily would to allow time to complete the process. If you’d like to discuss your options, please do contact us on on 020 3780 0406 or at RDteam@leighday.co.uk.
Insights since our last update
We are continually looking to provide insights into the regulatory and disciplinary field for the benefit of our clients and the wider profession. As well writing about the ethics of protesting and workplace relations, standards of ethics in the profession and the reach of the regulation into our personal lives in our monthly column on business ethics in the Solicitors Journal, we were pleased to see our research into Management Liability Insurance uptake was reported in legal and insurance outlets:
“Firms lacking investigation cover ‘dangerously exposed’”, Law Society Gazette
“Legal profession "dangerously exposed" amid underinsurance” Insurance Business UK
“Firms “risking financial ruin” over SRA prosecutions” Legal Futures
The question of whether firms and regulated individuals have adequate and appropriate insurance, which includes cover for regulatory investigations, continues to be a topic we urge regulated practices and individuals to be on top of to ensure they are doing the right thing by themselves, their clients and anyone who works for them.
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If you’re a regulated individual, manager or compliance officer, you and your teams need understand what the new normal means for you and what steps you can take to “future proof” your practice if you are called to account for your decision-making. We can help you to review your policies and processes or to understand how you can meet your professional obligations. Contact us to see how we can help you on 020 3780 0406 or at RDteam@leighday.co.uk.
Keep in touch
You can find out more about Leigh Day’s regulatory and disciplinary team and how we can help you on our website, via our brochure and "2 minutes" video. If you would like to speak to a member of the team, contact us on 020 3780 0406 or at RDteam@leighday.co.uk.