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When a legal partner leaves a firm (Solicitor)...(18 Posts)
I don't know who else to ask this question of and I don't really like asking it as it sounds awful.
I fear that my mum's solicitor has been less than honest with her. He has POA and there's lots been going on while I'm at the other side of the world that I can't help with. I don't want to say too much.
The solicitor in question was a partner at Firm A. He then left and went on to be a partner at Firm B.
Mum has signed a Subject Access Request (which I organised for her) and has had a reply from Firm A saying that the solicitor/partner took all the paperwork with him apart from the ledger pages which they have sent a copy of.
I'm just finding it strange that a partner would be allowed to do that. When mum uses a solicitor in a company is the company not in some way responsible? Does the company not have to keep a record of paperwork?
That does seem very odd, I would have thought your mother had a contract with firm A rather than a specific partner and his going to form B shouldn't make any difference. Do you have the original engagement letter?
Do the ledger pages show anything amiss?
lborolass - I don't suppose there is a contract as solicitor is actually son of solicitor who used to act on behalf of our family. The father (now deceased) used to be our neighbour.
Mum just asked solicitor to help her when my dad died and it's just gone on from there (10 years).
It's only been the past couple of years I've started questioning things ie he's taking payment for his services directly from mum's dividends despite me saying he should be sending her an invoice.
The ledger pages are winging their way to me by post just now.
He's been taking payment for his services directly from dividends without sending an invoice? Call up Firm A, talk to the senior partner and ask him why he was doing that. You could suggest that you might be talking to the tax authorities about it if you don't get a satisfactory response.
Melli - I'm sure he's going to say he did send an invoice and my mum has lost it. He'll easily be able to produce a "copy invoice". Mum would have had kittens if she knew how much - we've worked out - she's been paying him, but of course; it's all a guess.
I think just now it's important for me to find out if he has the right to take all paperwork from Firm A to Firm B, him being a partner in each firm at the respective time.
The LPA is probably personal to him so it's gone with him. It's different from say getting a solicitor to handle a conveyance and they leave half way through.
The lack of proper billing sounds dodgy and is something to take up with firm A in an official way.
You should ask for the complaints procedure. It will most likely be some sort of contact with the senior partner. If you don't get a suitable response, you can also discuss your complaint with the law society and the solicitors regulatory authority. The firm should provide you with all this info in its terms and conditions, and again if you ask for it.
All deductions from a client account should have specific I detections. Not good enough to say they sent an invoice to your mum. Unauthorised deductions from client ac is vvvvv frowned upon by law society.
Also, he would need your permission to move files to the new firm. The engagement is with the firm not the individual.
I HATE high street solicitors who behave like this. It gives the rest if us a v bad name !!
Thanks all but:
Chub - what is an LPA?
I need to take this step by step because he is a "family friend" (to my mum) and all that goes with that. His mum and my mum are quite friendly and my mum would hate to upset anyone.
So my first step really is finding out if firm A are telling the truth. Would they have given him all the paperwork? Should they have given him all the paperwork? I thought they would have kept a copy as I assumed the company would be responsible rather than him. He has left company A where he was a partner and joined company B as a partner and taken all mum's paperwork with him. It just doesn't sound correct.
Sorry a lasting power of attorney. I realised as I read on you didn't mean one of those. Principal still stands though - it would be him not the firm.
So Chub are you saying that he has the right to move all the papers with him? He has POA only when I am not available/unwilling - I am the first POA. ( I don't know how me being unavailable or unwilling can ever be measured so I how would I know if he has used this power)
I'd be tempted to write to the senior partners of both firms asking where the paperwork is and telling them that no more payment is to be taken from your Mums money without written consent. Afaik there are very strict rules about when money can be taken.
It sounds like a confused situation, do you have any written correspondence from the partner on the letterhead of either firm or has he been doing some kind of work on the side?
I can't rock the boat. I want to do this discreetly. I'm sure there is paperwork from him on letterhead - except he keeps all the paperwork!
I just really need to know if he has the right to take all the paperwork with him from firm A to firm B. I need to go to my bed now. It's late here.
Thanks for your advice so far.
It depends on the wording but it sounds like it yes. If he is the attorney in his own name, and not by virtue of being a partner of Firm A.
Hang on if he had POA only in default of you why has he been handling transactions? Has he had specific instructions from your mother to deal with transactions for her or has he been managing her affairs under the POA?
I was asking about the letterhead to see if indicate in what capacity he was acting (as a partner of firm A or by himself).
If it was as a partner I would have thought that his work would stay with firm A unless your mum had agreed to move. I did have a friend who had a very vaugely similar situation when the firm of solicitors she used went bust and there was an issue over who decided where the work went. I don't know all the details but I'm sure she said at the time that the clients had the final say.
This does sound extremely odd, particularly the taking of money from your mother's funds without issuing an invoice - that is a really serious breach of the solicitors accounts rules and does lead to solicitors being struck off.
I would suggest that you start by checking exactly what sort of power of attorney he has. There are several sorts. You can grant a general power of attorney which allows people to act on your behalf. They cease immediately on someone losing mental capacity. They are often used if, for example, someone is out of the country and needs their attorney to manage a bank account or investments while they are away.
Before October 2007, you could create an Enduring Power of Attorney which could continue even after someone became mentally incapable of looking after their affairs. They were designed to give someone control of your affairs if you became unable to deal with them yourself. If your mother signed one of these pre 2007, they are still valid, and can be used, but once someone becomes mentally incapable, they have to be registered at the Court of Protection to be used.
Since October 2007, it has only been possible to create Lasting Powers of Attorney for your financial affairs, and they can be used both before and after mental incapacity and have to be registered at the Court of Protection.
The powers the solicitor has really do depend on the type of power of attorney, and whether your mother has mental capacity to deal with her own affairs.
A solicitor acting under a power of attorney may have been appointed as a solicitor of a particular firm or could have been appointed in his personal capacity - you need to ask Firm A which it was. You need to find out whether the firm generally was acting for your mother - if so, they are most definitely liable if he has done something dodgy, and will need to contact their insurers as your mother may well have a claim against them.
It is fine, and fairly usual, where a partner moves to another firm, for him to take his clients with him, particularly if he is acting as attorney. However, your mother should have been asked whether she was happy with this, and should have given her consent. If she had refused, nothing should have left the first firm.
I realise you are in a very difficult position if you suspect that something untoward has gone on, particularly if your mother does not want to make a complaint or rock the boat. As a first port of call, I think you should speak to Firm A, ask for a copy of the complaints proceedure and say you want to speak to the senior partner to discuss this. They do have to talk to you if your mother has given you authority to discuss her affairs, but they may need a letter from her confirming this (unless she has lost capacity to deal with her own affairs and you are her attorney under an Enduring Power of Attorney or Lasting Power of Attorney which has been registered with the Court of Protection - in which case you have authority to deal with her affairs generally unless there are restrictions in the Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney).
Depending on what you find out, you may then need to go to Firm B and again ask to speak to the senior partner. I hope you manage to find some resolution to this - powers of attorney are very powerful and unfortunately can be open to abuse.
If monies have gone from your mother's funds and there is a real issue here, if either Firm A or Firm B does not deal with it - and they should - it is a huge breach of professional practice if they ignore it, your next port of call is to contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They regulate solicitors firms and have the power to strike off solicitors and indeed close down firms.
To be honest, if things do start looking as if there has been dishonesty by the solicitor, I would recommend that you and your mother go and get some legal advice.
You need to rock the boat, I'm afraid, before all your mum's cash is gone. If he's got POA, then your mum isn't making her own decisions anyway.
Think how rocked that boat will be if it all comes out after her demise or bankruptcy and for various reasons that cash is harder if not impossible to get back.
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