Some interesting news articles today:

Former Connect2Law chief set to lead new franchise

In the Law Society Gazette:  The former chief executive of membership network Connect2Law and Pannone Affinity has resurfaced as a partner at Parabis Law. David Jabbari, who resigned last year from Connect2Law owner Pannone after its acquisition by Slater & Gordon, will seek to establish another franchise network of law firms on behalf of Parabis. The business will offer firms a combination of back-office shared services, quality assurance, branding and marketing support under the Parabis umbrella.

Parabis has helped a number of new entrants to become alternative business structures in recent months, including insurance firm Direct Line and over-50s specialist Saga. The company intends to use the new law firm network to play a role in these new ABSs, as well as supplying legal services to in-house legal departments, SMEs and larger companies.

At its peak Connect2Law had 2,600 UK member firms with combined turnover of £1bn. The network was co-ordinated by 20 leading regional ‘hub’ firms which have Connect2Law business development managers. The entity also had 17 dedicated staff split between London and Manchester. But the future of the brand was shrouded in doubt after Australian firm Slater & Gordon acquired Pannone last November and did not clarify the future of the divisions.

Full story, here.

Financial backers of JRs to be disclosed

From the Law Society Gazette:  The government has reined in a proposal to restrict eligibility to apply for judicial review, but will require disclosure of the identity of anyone financially backing a claim, it has been announced. The Ministry of Justice has also backed down on proposals to pay lawyers working on the ‘permission stage’ only where permission is granted. The change will enable payment in meritorious cases that settle prior to permission being granted.

A ‘strong’ package of reforms which has been announced is designed to limit the number and length of cases, and their cost to the taxpayer, which it says works out at between £1,500 and £25,000 for each case the government defends. 

Legal aid will remain available for all cases with ‘merit’. The government has also abandoned its proposal to alter the availability of legal aid in planning cases. But the government will require the details of anyone financially backing a JR to be disclosed, even if they are not a named party, so that costs can be fairly allocated. 

The government says that in the past, backers have used individuals, and even set up new companies, to front JRs – meaning that any assessments by the court of the financial capacity of the applicant have not always been a fair representation.

Third parties who join in a JR case as ‘interveners’ will be made responsible to ‘pay their own way’, for example when a campaign group applies to become involved in a case already taking place between an individual and an authority. 

Read the full article, here.

Planning court to fast-track disputes

From the Law Society Gazette: Legal disputes over major developments will be fast-tracked through a new planning court, the justice secretary Chris Grayling has announced. The Ministry of Justice said the move will see an estimated 400 planning cases a year dealt with by specialist judges in fast-track hearings, instead of ‘clogging up’ the Administrative Court.

The plans were announced alongside a raft of other measures designed to speed up and reform the judicial review system.

The Planning Court will be established this summer. MoJ say the new court will support the government’s long-term plan for economic recovery by reducing unnecessary and costly legal delays which developers have previously blamed for the collapse of potential major building schemes.

Read the full article, here.

Number of in-house solicitors has doubled since 2000

From the Law Society Gazette: The number of in-house solicitors has doubled to 25,600 since the year 2000 as organisations seek to combat rising external legal fees, according to research from the Solicitors Regulation Authority. In-house solicitors represent 18% of the profession, with 60% working in the private sector. Of those, 30% are employed in the financial services sector, found the Role of In-house Solicitors survey. Around 18% are employed in local government, with 8% working for the Crown Prosecution Service and 3% working in the third sector, according to the 2,013 respondents to the survey.

Financial pressures have contributed to the sector’s growth, with general counsel playing an important role in controlling external spend in the face of rising legal costs, said the research. Consequently many organisations have brought in-house work previously done by external firms, resulting in the termination of sometimes long-standing relationships.

Read the article, here.

Legal software Intelliworks joins forces with Lawyer Checker

From Mortgage Finance Gazette: OchreSoft Technologies has added Lawyer Checker to its Intelliworks workflow case management system in the war against conveyancer fraud.  Used by 160 UK law firms, the Intelliworks legal software now has access to the comprehensive set of checks that Lawyer Checker carries out; with its Account and Entity check system giving enhanced due diligence to law firms who use it.

Due diligence requires all solicitors and conveyancers to check the firm they are sending money to. Checking the roll of solicitors is no longer enough. The need to perform such a check is becoming increasingly relevant given the changing landscape of the legal sector.

Read the article, here.

Martin Pollins
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