Exclusive: Judge slams Law Soc for "shoddy" and "misleading" behaviour
16 December 2016
The Law Society has been blasted for "shoddy
" behaviour and misleading a tribunal after being sued for monopolising legal training.
Since 2015 the Law Society has required firms to purchase their financial crime, mortgage fraud and money laundering training from it in order to maintain accreditation with its Conveyancing Quality Scheme. The move came as a shock to online provider Socrates Training, which said its business cratered as a result. Socrates accused the Law Society of abusing its dominant position in the market and sued for damages and an injunction.
Earlier this year a Law Soc spokeswoman told RollOnFriday the case was "wholly without merit
”. But on the final day of a fast-tracked four day hearing
at the CAT, an unflattering portrait of the Law Soc has emerged as an organisation which significantly understated how much money it made from its training, either deliberately or through some first class bungling.
||"We're scraping by"
The Law Society, which instructed Norton Rose Fulbright, had told the hearing that only 41% of its training income came from the CQS courses. However its testimony was challenged and on the last day it admitted that the figure could be as high as 90%.
Its counsel, Kassie Smith QC, brought in Law Soc bigwigs including its executive director of delivery and performance and the head of training and events to sit behind her while she delivered the confession. She explained that the Law Society didn't actually know how profitable the scheme had been because staff had not used the correct codes to record CQS income. She said that as a result there was a sum of "about £500,000 of unallocated training income
" sloshing around the Law Society bank account. Instead of disclosing any of that, the Law Society had added up the amounts which staff did correctly label as CQS income, yielding the 41% figure. Which, conveniently, made the Law Society's decision to hog CQS training look far less beneficial to it than the actualité.
Addressing the thinking behind the inaccurate documents provided by the Law Society, Smith told the hearing "perhaps with hindsight that was not the most sensible route to take
". Justice Roth, the president of the hearing, was less forgiving:
Brushing aside Smith's apology, Roth continued that the Law Society "should not have presented what they have in a misleading way
" and said that, if the Law Soc had not been rumbled, the tribunal "would have been misled
Roth also slapped down Socrates counsel Philip Woolfe, but it was not quite on the same scale:
Aspokesman for the Law Society told RollOnFriday, "An issue arose at the hearing about the presentation of historic financial information which we clarified for the tribunal
". Judgment is expected in the next few weeks.