Most people need to see a solicitor at some time in their lives – either to move house, make a will, deal with the estate of someone who has died, to help with a court case or a business matter.
The public are fully protected when they instruct a solicitor because if a client suffers loss due to the advice or actions of their solicitor, they can make a claim against the firm's insurance (known as 'indemnity insurance'). There is even a fund of last resort called the 'compensation fund' which is maintained by the Solicitor's Regulation Authority to ensure that members of the public have a means of redress even if their solicitor is not properly insured.
In addition, solicitors are required to give clients detail of their complaints procedures and if a client complains and is not satisfied with the result, they can ask for the Legal Ombudsman to look at the matter.
All of this amounts to a lot of protection for the public. But the professional body representing solicitors is worried that this might be about to change due to the introduction of the role of 'freelance solicitor'.
The term 'freelance solicitor' describes a self-employed solicitor who:
- is practising on their own
- does not employ anyone else in connection with the services they provide
- is practising in their own name (rather than using a trading name, in a recognised sole practice or through a service company)
- is engaged directly by the client; and
- receives fees payable direct to the individual solicitor
There are different types of work that a freelance solicitor can offer to the public and different requirements for insurance. Not all freelance solicitors will be able to employ people and they cannot hold client money. They will be required to let their clients know what their freelance status means and whether there are any restrictions on the types of legal services they may offer.
They should clearly explain to clients the alternative professional indemnity insurance which is in place (if applicable), together with information about the level of cover and how it will give the client sufficient protection.
This amounts to a big change in the way that legal services are offered to the public and it is important for clients to be clear about the status of who they are instructing and how they are insured.
To discuss this or any other professional matter contact us.