Clearing up the Deacons aftermath

The reverberations from the shocking collapse of Deacon Goldrein Green will sound a long time. Leaving aside the financial and human suffering, the lessons have more than a local significance.

There will be a perverse pleasure on the part of some that a firm regarded as a model by the authorities was shown to have been vulnerable and culpable. That the collapse will play a part in future negotiations on legal aid rates is only to be expected. But what went wrong points not just to legal aid rates, but to a wide range of factors, some of which are LAB-related.

Surely thought must again be given to the relationship between the board and firms. The LAB may react by wanting even tighter controls over funds, but should the regime be one of self-assessment of bills by firms with appropriate monitoring? Is some netting arrangement possible between the flow of cash to and from the LAB?

Financial mismanagement and ignorance of the firm's true position are not unique problems. Ignoring the part played by any retention of LAB funds, the combination of factors which sunk the firm, could happen elsewhere.

Locally, the firm was not popular with some practitioners, because of an arrogance born of its apparent success. But there are national lessons to be learnt from the fallout – the Law Society needs to look at how it expects the profession to act in the aftermath of a collapse – is a free-for-all the best response?

The complaints bureau again finds itself in the unwelcome limelight for a seemingly slow response to the crisis. Although it rejects the criticisms, it should examine its procedures.

The size of Deacons' debt may have precluded the firm using the new partnership insolvency measures, but sadly they were not available then. And the exposure of salaried partners should make all aspirants pause for thought.