Joint V Letter to the LSB regarding the Collapse of Axiom Ince

We hope that this message finds members well, and that you have been able to enjoy some rest over the festive period.

Members may be aware that Leeds Law Society is a member of the “joint five” law societies (the Joint V): Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.  Together, we work to represent the interests of thousands of solicitors across England in some of the largest legal centres outside of London.

As part of our work, Leeds Law Society has open lines of communication with other members of the Joint V, as well as with the National Law Society.  We seek to collaborate with the Joint V and the National Law Society where we believe doing so is in the interests of our members, including where (speaking as one) we have a louder voice.

Members will be aware of the catastrophic failure of Axiom Ince in October 2023, with an estimated £66m found to be missing from that firm’s client account.  The Legal Gazette has reported that the Axiom Ince intervention is the biggest in the SRA’s history, with costs alone expected to reach at least £15m.  This collapse has already led to payments being made from the Solicitors’ Compensation Fund, a discretionary fund operated by the SRA, to which all solicitors contribute.  Members may have seen reports in the press to the effect that a one-off levy could be imposed on all solicitors to top up that fund, albeit this suggestion appears to have been parked at present.  The Legal Services Board (the body which sits above the SRA, Bar Standards Board and other legal regulators) has now confirmed its intention to review the regulatory events leading up to the SRA’s intervention into Axiom Ince.

Leeds Law Society (but see note below) is concerned about both (i) the SRA’s role in relation to the collapse of Axiom Ince, which can be viewed as a failure in regulation from which lessons ought to be learned; and (ii) the potential calls on the Compensation Fund and the impact this will have on our Membership and the broader profession.  These views are shared by the Joint V.  Similar concerns have also been expressed by the National Law Society, including by its incumbent President (and former President of Leeds Law Society), Nick Emmerson.

We consider this justifies an independent investigation.  Accordingly, in coordination with the Joint V, we have written a letter to the Legal Services Board from the Joint V calling for an independent investigation, and asking that the Joint V be consulted on the framework of that investigation.  A full copy of the letter (sent on 20 December 2023) is available here

If you would like to be involved in the Leeds Law Society’s further engagement with this issue, please reach out to us.  We are always keen to hear from our members regarding our work as we seek to represent, support and help Leeds Solicitors and the broader legal sector in Leeds.

With kind regards

The Board of Leeds Law Society

Note: As is set out in the Joint V’s letter to the LSB, the views expressed in the letter are not necessarily the views of the individual members or directors of the Joint V.  The same applies to this email.