In the past year there has been much press attention focused on the Bolton Firm, Asons Solicitors and their faltering practice. From a ‘secret’ £300,000 grant from Bolton Council (Law Society Gazette 23 December 2016) to the unpaid tax bill of £300,000 debt reported in the Law Gazette (13 January 2017), along with the controversy that Asons Solicitors were seeking to let out premises which they appear to have paid for with the grant from Bolton City Council (Law Society Gazette 24 January 2017). Asons was forced to enter into an agreement with Axa Insurance to return £70,000 after Asons’ admission that they had been falsely inflating legal costs (reported in the Bolton News 14 February 2017) and finally Asons posted losses in 2016 of £2.1 million (reported in the Bolton News 03 April 2017).
On 27 March 2017 these numerous controversies culminated in Asons shutting down their website and closing their doors. On the same day the Law Gazette reported that Asons Solicitors had ‘ceased trading’. Three days later the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) publicised that they had intervened in the firm for the benefit of Asons’ clients.
In the background to the closure of the firm it appears that the Akram brothers, who own and run Asons, acquired a company named Banks Law, which they registered as a law firm with the SRA. Shortly before the SRA intervention Banks Law underwent a name change to Coops Law. It appears that the majority Asons’ staff have been transferred to Coops Law. Before Asons went into administration, its assets and work-in-progress were acquired by Coops Law. It is not known what consideration was paid.
The SRA has now given guidance that Stephensons Solicitors has a list of matters on which it is taking over from Asons, anyone acting in a former Asons case should contact Stephensons to confirm whether they are now instructed. Where Coops Law is seeking to take over conduct of any former Asons cases they should have the claimant’s mandate expressly instructing the firm to act and we suggest a request should be made to see a copy.
As of 23 June 2017 Coops Law has become the subject of a new intervention by the SRA in order to again protect the interests of its clients as “there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of director Irfan Akram in connection with the business”. The effect of this intervention means that the firm has ceased trading with immediate effect. The SRA has said: ‘The SRA will now complete its investigation and decide on the appropriate course of action. There is no timescale for how long this work will take.’
What this means for you
The current position of the staff and the cases they were running is unknown. The SRA has announced that Stephensons Solicitors LLP have been appointed on behalf of Coops as well as Asons, Ann Harrison has been appointed on behalf of the SRA. It will be sometime before Stephensons have a clear idea of all the cases they are taking over. In the meantime the best course of action will be to notify the court on any on which Coops act and if possible seek a stay, pending guidance from the SRA.