Law Society Council Update September 2017

I missed the last Council meeting on 14 July as I was away on holiday.  However, it would appear that a lot of important business was done at the meeting. As always, these updates are subject to the fact that the business of Council is governed by confidentiality, and therefore, restricted to matters falling properly in the public domain generally. And the general caveat applies that these are ephemeral updates that I’m compiling quickly. Therefore, I’m writing and posting this pretty much as it comes out in first draft without detailed proofreading. I offer it as a quick contemporary note of my impressions, it’s not intended to be refined legal writing or my considered opinion on these issues, so please take it or leave it as such. All opinions expressed are my own personal views.

Professional Indemnity Insurance Regulations 2017

PII regulation is a classic example of the type of endless and thankless work undertaken by our fellow members of the profession on a voluntary basis in the Society at Committee and Council level for the benefit of every member of the profession.  Yet few of us care or pay any attention unless we need to rely on it or at renewal time when we are concerned about what factors might influence premia.

The 2017 regulations were approved at the Council meeting in July and they were signed into law in August, they’re here.

Richard Hammond chairs the PII Committee and the Committee seems to have done Trojan and very detailed work on behalf of the profession in the changes included in these latest regulations.

As I understand it, the most important change in these regulations is a quite nuanced one around the process triggering a claim in the event that a client account deficit arises.

PII insurance will never (and should not) provide cover where a client account deficit arises as a result of fraud or dishonesty.  But one can envisage many other circumstances where it could (or from a practitioner’s point of view, certainly should).

Apparently, prior to this, the Minimum Terms and Conditions of PII stipulated by the regulations required a court order under the Solicitor’s Acts to trigger a “claim” for PII purposes in the event of a deficit arising in the client account.

Thus, if such a situation had arisen inadvertently and a solicitor had remedied the deficit before an order in respect of the matter had been made, the situation might well have been denied cover in the event of a third-party claim.

The main change provided for by these regulations is that a “claim” for the purposes of the Minimum Terms and Conditions of PII now includes a “the discharge of an obligation of an Insured, following receipt by an Insured of a Notification of a Requirement to Rectify” a deficit in the client account.  A Notification of a Requirement to Rectify means a notice in writing from the Registrar of Solicitors or the Society notifying a solicitor that a deficit has arisen on the client account and informing the solicitor of his or her obligation to rectify it and of the regulatory consequences of not doing so.

In essence, if such a situation were to arise the matter could be brought quickly before the Regulation of Practice Committee and a formal notification made requiring the member to rectify the deficit which could then give rise to a claim for PII purposes.

If this seems complicated, it’s because it is.  PII is complicated.  And I am no expert in this area.  As a practitioner, all I know is that if a situation arises, you need to get good specialist advice in this area before taking action to ensure that you avail of any cover that may be available pursuant to the insurance you are obliged to carry.  And it seems to me that this is a very sensible change which would be of benefit to practitioners who might find themselves in this invidious position.

But please note, this does not mean that PII cover is an acceptable alternative to appropriate cover again cybercrime.  It is not.

Cybercrime is probably one of the biggest risks we carry in holding client account funds and, in my view, it is sheer madness to operate without separate insurance cover against cybercrime.

This again is a specialist area and the only recommendation that I can make is that you get good expert advice on this and put the cover in place that is appropriate for your situation.

Continuing Professional Development Regulations 2017

While new CPD Regulations 2017 were approved at the July meeting, I cannot immediately see them online as signed into law as yet.  So, I don’t have a copy.

However, the important point I take from the passing of these regulations is that there has been no increase in the number of CPD hours required which remains at 20 and will remain at this level unless otherwise approved by Council.

The new CPD regulations also enable CPD credits in the regulatory category to be applied to the management and professional development skills category in the event of a surplus in the regulatory category.


It appears that a significant proportion of the July meeting was devoted to the eConveyancing project, on which there was a major presentation to Council on developments in the project to date, which has come to something of a crossroads.  This was then the subject of considerable discussion.  As I was not present, I cannot give you my impression.

However, in general terms I think that the Society’s strategy around the whole concept of eConveyancing is the right one, i.e. we need to remain at the centre of developments.  There is understandable pushback to this from traditional quarters, fearful of change in this area.  But the bottom line is that change is going to come anyway and we need to make sure that we are at the centre of change.

Developments in the project to date now require a new strategy to be developed and the next steps involved in that were outlined to Council and approved at the July meeting.  So, there is nothing concrete on this at present, but watch this space.

Council Election Dates

Can it be that time of year again?  It does not feel like 12 months since I first embarked on this.  But it is.

Dates for the 2017 Council elections were approved at the July meeting and the final date for receipt of nominations has now passed.

The close of poll date this year is Thursday, 26 October 2017.

Thankfully, I do not have to consider whether to run again this year as it is a two-year cycle.  But the really important thing is that you do vote.  You will be receiving your election materials during October, please ensure that you vote and return your completed ballot papers by Thursday 26 October.

Well, that’s it for me for now.  Our next Council meeting will be on 3 November.