Nicola Darby of the Law Society’s Regulation Department dealt with queries on Law Society requirements for setting up or retiring from practice in The Law Society Gazette (Issue Aug/Sep 2007). She prepared the following helpful list of answers to questions frequently asked by solicitors intending to practise on their own behalf or in partnership. The Institute is grateful to the Law Society for their continued support in general and the permission to link their articles such as this one in particular
1 What am I required to do from the Society’s perspective?
Notify the Society, complete the Society’s ‘Commencement in Practice’ form, available on request from Nicola Darby (see Nicola’s contact details below), and furnish confirmation that you have professional indemnity insurance cover in place.
If you are not already the holder of a practising certificate, you must submit an application form for same, prior to setting up in practice. You should also provide a copy of your professional notepaper to the Society.
2 Where can I obtain Professional Indemnity Insurance?
There is a list of qualified insurers providing professional indemnity insurance to the profession, which is available on the Society’s website (www.lawsociety.ie). There is also a list of brokers who arrange such cover, available from the Society.
3 Is there a period during which I am required to practise as an employed solicitor prior to setting up in practice?
No, however the Society would strongly encourage all newly-qualified solicitors to obtain a minimum of one-year’s experience in an established practice, prior to setting up in practice on their own.
4 May I practise under a name other than my own?
Any solicitor wishing to practise under a practice title where their name or the names of the partners in the practice are not reflected in the practice title should seek the permission of the Society to practise under that title (as provided by SI No 178 of 1996 (Solicitors (Professional Names/Notepaper) Regulations1996).
5 I am currently employed. What happens to my practising certificate when I leave that employment?
Your practising certificate travels with you to the new practice, as all practising certificates expire on 31 December each year. You may return your practising certificate to the Society with your ‘Commencement in Practice’ form and request a further certificate to issue, reflecting your new practice details.
6 If my employer paid for my practising certificate, do I have to reimburse the practice when I leave?
This is a matter for agreement between you and your former employer.
7 Am I required to have a town agent?
8 Am I permitted to advertise my practice to the public?
Solicitors are permitted to advertise their services, but must do so within the limitations imposed by section 4 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 2002 and by the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002, which specify, among other things, that advertisements shall not be in bad taste, misleading or contrary to public policy. In particular, solicitors should be aware that advertisements designed to encourage personal injury claims are prohibited, and any breaches of the regulations may be regarded as a disciplinary matter.
9 I have a relative who is an accountant. Can he or she be my reporting accountant in respect of the Solicitors’ Accounts Regulations?
No, objectivity is a fundamental principle of the ethical guide for members of the accountancy profession. The Society would be concerned that a close relationship between a solicitor and his/her reporting accountant would be a threat to the objectivity of the accountant and, in the absence of safeguards to protect that objectivity, it would not be appropriate for your relative to act as your reporting accountant.
10 When will my first accountant’s report be due to be filed with the Society?
When completing the Society’s ‘Commencement in Practice’ form and the annual declaration made to the Society for the purpose of obtaining a practising certificate, you are required to nominate an accounting date that is the last date of the practice accounting period in each practice year. Many solicitors nominate a date one year from the date they started in practice. Your first accountant’s report is due to be furnished with the Society not later than six months after the accounting date in each practice year.
11 May I continue to work out my notice with my current employer and simultaneously practise on my own behalf?
Yes, provided you notify the Society accordingly and provide documentary evidence that you have professional indemnity insurance in place for your new practice. You should also ensure that your employer has approved this arrangement.
12 I am setting up in partnership with another solicitor. Do both of us have to complete a ‘Commencement in Practice’ form?
No, one solicitor may complete the form on behalf of the other partner(s) in the new partnership.
13 I am taking over an already existing practice. Am I still required to complete a ‘Commencement in Practice’ form?
Yes, you are required to complete this form.
Nicola Darby of the Society’s Regulation Department can be contacted at Blackhall Place, Dublin 7, tel: 01 672 4972 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For information in relation to any of the Law Society support services for its members, contact the Society’s support services executive, Louise Campbell, tel: 01 881 5712 or email: email@example.com
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