THE Law Society of Scotland has, dramatically, shut down the Glasgow based law firm ROSS HARPER, suspending all of the firm’s solicitors practising certificates and appointing a Judicial Factor after an audit & investigation, apparently initiated as a result of “complaints”, revealed “substantial inconsistencies” in the firm’s client accounts. The move, which came after an application made in the Court of Session yesterday, has been highly publicised today after Law Society media team & senior officials put out a wide variety of leaks, statements & comments to the wider media to ensure the move was well publicised, purely on the basis of “concerns over the safety of client funds.”
The Glasgow based law firm at the centre of the story, founded in 1961 by Professor Ross Harper who was a past president of the Law Society of Scotland itself, has been regular finalists in the annual law awards for “Law firm of the year” & “Criminal law firm of the year” and celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2011. However, the firm has endured a difficult period with the loss of many of its high earning partners such as Cameron Fyfe, Professor Alan Susskind, Harvey Diamond and Richard Freeman after disputes over how the firm was being run.
The Law Society of Scotland released a statement today : The Law Society of Scotland, as part of its regulatory function, has asked the Court of Session to appoint a Judicial Factor to legal firm Ross Harper. The interim factor, Ian Mitchell from Henderson Loggie Chartered Accountants, was appointed by the court today, Thursday, 5 April 2012.
The application was made to the court to protect the clients' interests after the Law Society inspected the firm's books and became concerned about the accounting records. The appointment means that the practising certificates of the firm's partners have been suspended.
The firm has five offices based in Glasgow, Hamilton and East Kilbride. Any clients of the firm who have concerns can contact the Henderson Loggie office in Dundee on 01382 207060. Henderson Loggie will be contacting all of the firm's staff to inform them. Solicitors and trainees at the firm can also contact the Society's professional practice helpline during office hours: 0131 226 7411.
However, a Glasgow solicitor speaking to Scottish Law Reporter this morning alleged there is more to the Law Society’s “heavy handed approach” to Ross Harper, citing recent events which led to the firm joining the Glasgow Bar Association, which was reported in the Herald newspaper HERE
The solicitor, who does not wish to be named said : “I think you will find there are a great deal of politics wrapped up in the Law Society’s handling of Ross Harper rather than simply the reasons stated in the Law Society’s press statement.”
He went on : “It may well be there are anomalies in Ross Harper’s accounts however I understand from well placed sources this highly public move is more about the Law Society teaching the Glasgow end of Scotland’s legal profession a lesson after recent arguments between the Glasgow Bar Association and the Edinburgh based Law Society, who many solicitors now thing has definitely had its day.”
A former Law Society Council Member appeared to corroborate the claims from the unnamed solicitor, telling journalists from Scottish Law Reporter the Law Society are “growing concerned for their position” in the wake of dissent from within the legal profession particularly from Glasgow solicitors who now feel the Law Society can no longer represent the legal profession interests or those of the public.
The Law Society were keen to point out in their Press Release their duties regarding their alleged protection of client funds, stating : “The Law Society of Scotland's compliance team carries out regular inspections of all solicitor firms in Scotland to ensure that they comply with rules on dealing with clients' money. If an inspector suspects that client money is missing or the accounting records are so poor they cannot tell if client money is missing, the Law Society of Scotland can request the Court of Session to appoint a Judicial Factor to that firm to protect the public and other solicitors. The decision to make the appointment is for the Court.”
On occasions, it is found that a firm's accounting records have not been kept properly. Rarely, it may be suspected that client money is missing. To protect clients, the Society asks the Court of Session to appoint the Judicial Factor to examine the firm's records. The Judicial Factor will reassure clients that business is ongoing and, where necessary, try to put them in touch with other solicitors. You can find out more from the Law Society’s information sheet on judicial factors (pdf)
In reality however, the Law Society of Scotland and now the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission have failed on almost every occasion to guarantee the protection of client funds from law firms who continue to see their clients as “easy targets” for theft, either by way of deliberate overcharging for fees or via embezzlement & other types of frauds, both now sharply on the rise.
The Herald newspaper reports on the difficulties at law firm Ross Harper : Law firm in crisis over client funds
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