MARCH 2023 – ARTICLES & ITEMS OF INTEREST
The Legal Quality Standard of Ireland
MARCH 2023 – ARTICLES & ITEMS OF INTEREST
CPD 2023 CYCLE
Last month we referenced the anticipated changes to the CPD 2023 Cycle.
As at the 31 March 2023, the Law Society of Ireland website states “New CPD Regulations were adopted by the Law Society Council in late 2022 and are in the process of being implemented.”
DPC PUBLISHES ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2022
On the 7 March 2023, the Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon published the Irish Data Protection Commission’s Annual Report for 2022.
The highlights of the 2022 Annual report include:-
- The DPC processed 9,370 new cases (6,660 queries and 2,710 complaints) from individuals in 2022, which is a decrease of 14% on 2021 case figures;
- In 2022 the most frequent GDPR topics for queries and complaints continued to be Access Requests, Fair-Processing Disclosure, Direct Marketing and Right to be Forgotten;
- The DPC concluded 10,008 cases (6,875 queries and 3,133 complaints), including 1,920 complaints received prior to 2022;
- The DPC received 125 valid cross-border complaints (as Lead Supervisory Authority) and concluded 246 cross-border complaints;
- Total breach notifications received in 2022 was 5,828, representing a 13% decrease on the GDPR data breaches recorded in 2021;
- The most frequent cause of breaches reported to the DPC arose as a result of correspondence inadvertently being misdirected to the wrong recipients, at 62% of the overall total;
- In 2022, the DPC concluded 17 large-scale inquiries, with administrative fines in excess of €1billion and multiple reprimands and compliance orders imposed.
- The report includes 20 Case Studies;
- The report identifies public sector bodies, financial institutions, insurance firms, telecom companies setting out details of its National Inquires and Cross Border Inquiries.
To view the report in full see https://www.dataprotection.ie/sites/default/files/uploads/2023-03/DPC%20AR%20English_web.pdf
CONVEYANCING UNDERTAKINGS – STAGE PAYMENTS AND CERTIFICATES OF TITLE
In the March issue of the Law Society Gazette, the Conveyancing Committee has been reviewing the certificate of title system in relation to residential properties and, in particular, the area of stage payments.
As you are aware on the issuing of the stage payment by the lender to the solicitor’s client account, ‘the security documentation is put in place and the application is made to have the title (where relevant) registered in the client’s name and the charge on the property registered with the Property Registration Authority (PRA). The certificate of title is dated the date of the first drawdown and, at this juncture, subject only to registration of the title and the charge with the PRA, the solicitor lodges their certificate of title with the lending institution, together with the title deeds. It is at the point of the initial drawdown that searches are carried out and, subject only to the registration and the delivery of the certificate of title and title deeds to the lender, the solicitor’s engagement comes to an end.
In keeping with the current certificate of title system agreed between the Law Society of Ireland and the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, after first drawdown, all further stage payments should be paid by the lender directly to their customer and not to the solicitor’s client account.
The committee considers that, where the lender requests stage payments to be processed through a client account of a solicitor, this increases the work and costs involved, as well as the timeline for funds transfer, and it increases risks – particularly around cybercrime. ‘
‘Each solicitor who, in their discretion, agrees to process these additional payments should first agree with their client the terms of their service in this regard, including in relation to costs.’
To view this practice note in full see https://www.lawsociety.ie/globalassets/documents/gazette/gazette-pdfs/gazette-2023/march-2023-gazette.pdf#page=59
LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND – RISE IN FRAUDSTERS IMPERSONATING SOLICITORS
On the 23 March 2023 the Law Society of Scotland published a Fraud Alert titled “Spike in Fraudsters impersonating Solicitors”.
The Law Society of Scotland has seen an influx of online scams by fraudsters trying to con solicitors’ clients out of significant sums of money, using various sophisticated methods, including email interception, WhatsApp and fake websites.
Recent examples of fraud include:-
- Scammers intercepting and controlling email messages between a solicitor and its clients. The fraudsters targeting clients at the point where housing transactions were due to complete, mimicking the solicitor’s emails exactly to give bogus payment details to multiple clients in an attempt to con them out of tens of thousands of pounds;
- WhatsApp messages alleging to be from legitimate law firms, offering health and social care visas, in return for providing personal information, such as copies of passports, and paying fees of hundreds of pounds. These use imitated law firms’ correct information, such as office addresses and logos, in order to dupe people into thinking the messages are real;
- Websites mimicking real law firm sites and emails, but with slight spelling errors in urls that are easy to miss.
The article sets out with legal firms can do to help clients protect themselves:-
- Ask the client to call your office to confirm the firm’s bank account details if they receive any communication which requests a payment.
- Provide the details of the firm’s bank account in your letter of engagement/terms of business.
- Include within your letter of engagement/terms of business a notice to clients stating that the firm’s bank account details will not change during a transaction, that the firm will not change bank details via email, and that clients should check details in person if in any doubt. Also include this notice as a footer to all firm emails.
- Keep discussing this issue with your clients to ensure that they are alive to the threats and that they know what to expect from your firm.
What solicitors can do to protect their firm:-
- Never act on an emailed instruction to change a client’s bank account without seeking further verification of that instruction – call the client or speak to them face to face.
- Considering introducing systems and controls regarding payments to bank accounts.
- Advise clients that if they subsequently change their payment instructions, your firm will not make any payment until instruction have been verified by alternative means.
- Make your staff aware of cyber threats, raising the issue repeatedly to keep them alert to the risks.
To view this alert in full see https://www.lawscot.org.uk/news-and-events/law-society-news/spike-in-fraudsters-impersonating-solicitors/
The Law Society of Scotland also reports on scam messages from the following named firms claiming to be ‘Teneu Legal’, ‘Thorntons’ and ‘Dorfman, George & Partners LLP’.
LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND REFRESH THE AML CLIENT AND MATTER LEVEL RISK ASSESSMENT TEMPLATES
On the 17 March 2023 the Law Society of Scotland stated they have refreshed the AML Client and Matter Level Risk Assessment Templates (CMLRA).
‘The AML team believes these refreshed templates and the accompanying guidance notes will assist with practices employing a more comprehensive and holistic approach to the completion and documentation of CMLRSs. This will ensure that the nature, background and purpose of each transaction is appropriately documented along with any identified potential risks.
Well documented CMLRAs will not only assist with the compliance of the money laundering regulations, it will also help practices to demonstrate compliance upon request from both the Law Society of Scotland, as your AML supervisor and other relevant authorities such as law enforcement.’
To view this note and refreshed templates see https://www.lawscot.org.uk/news-and-events/law-society-news/refreshed-aml-client-and-matter-level-risk-assessment-templates/
UK SOLICITOR STRUCK OFF FOR MISLEADING CLIENTS
This month it was reported on the Law Society of England and Wales website how Ms. O’Donnell, a senior associate solicitor who misled clients to cover up sending them the wrong form has agreed to be removed from the roll.
‘Rather than admitting she had used an incorrect form to register a lasting power of attorney, instead, she had tried to suggest the Office of the Public Guardian had recently changed the registration process and asked the clients to sign the correct form instead.
But following direct enquiries to the OPG, a client emailed O’Donnell’s managing partner saying the letter had ‘raised some suspicion’ and that there had been no recent change in the registration process.
The tribunal heard that O’Donnell had made a similar mistake in relation to another client and again blamed the new registration process. She was issued with a written warning but the matter was referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. She told the regulator she had not set out to maliciously deceive any client and was embarrassed about making ‘what was a minor error’.
Before the tribunal, the SRA submitted that O’Donnell must have known she was misleading the clients and that she had acted dishonestly and without integrity.
O’Donnell told the tribunal she was under considerable stress, professionally and personally, at the time of the misconduct, and that private client work during the pandemic was ‘incredibly challenging’. She added: ‘It is important that it be known that I deeply regret my actions. Although said actions did not cause any harm to the client and they did not suffer any loss financially.’
She agreed with the SRA to being struck off and paying £5,000 costs.’
To read this article in full see https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/solicitor-who-misled-clients-to-avoid-a-can-of-worms-struck-off/5115600.article
NEW DIRECTIVE ON CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY
The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) came into force on 5 January 2023 and is expected to be transformative in relation to the way large companies manage sustainability matters. These include climate change, biodiversity loss, social inclusion and equality, stakeholder relations, green finance, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution control and much more.
In this month’s Law Society Gazette Richard Lee discusses this from a legal viewpoint and also looks at the reporting standards and what sustainability reporting will need to address.
To view this article in full see https://www.lawsociety.ie/globalassets/documents/gazette/gazette-pdfs/gazette-2023/march-2023-gazette.pdf#page=31