Change of direction

By 1 November, the Law Society requires firms involved in discrete investment business to have a "qualified person" to conduct or directly supervise this business. To date, the number of firms signifying their intention to do so is low and the society describes the response as "disappointing".

The deadline has focused attention on whether financial services will ever catch on with the legal profession.

On the one hand it is surprising that at a time when high street firms are looking for new business more have not turned their minds to what is potentially a very lucrative form of business.

On the other, there are high outlay costs and a tough regulatory regime. Another common gripe is the lack of career prospects for financial services professionals under the Law Society system. As multi-disciplinary partnerships are not allowed, there is less opportunity for career advancement. Consequently it is difficult to attract good professionals.

The decision whether to get involved in providing financial services is a difficult one. It may be the entirely wrong decision for some firms and in others partners may be difficult to persuade of the merits of getting involved.

However, firms should at least seriously consider the issue. As the market shrinks in bread and butter areas such as conveyancing, investigating other business opportunities should be a priority.