Q: My grandad’s solicitor holds the deeds to his house, his will and even some money he inherited from his sister. It is only a small firm, what will happen to all of this if it merges with a bigger firm?
A: The short answer is that it all remains as safe as it was before the merger. Solicitors are not only highly qualified, but also highly regulated to make sure that clients are protected at all times. Even if something goes horribly wrong, such as a sole practitioner suddenly dying, there are mechanisms to make sure that any outstanding work is finished off and money is accounted for. In the very rare instances of solicitors running off with money, compensation is paid to clients who have lost out. This comes from the Solicitors Compensation Fund which raises money by means of an annual levy on every solicitor.
None of these problems arise, however, when there is a merger. The merged firm carries on with existing client work and is responsible for the client money of the previous two separate firms, with the two client accounts simply being merged into one. The professional duties and level of client protection remain the same. Deeds and wills remain in safe storage as before. When an office is closed any wills and deeds are kept in safekeeping at one of the other locations and clients can contact any of the offices of the merged firm to make arrangements to collect wills and deeds.
The security arrangements for storing and safeguarding wills and deeds are strict and anyone wanting to collect documents should make an appointment to do so and provide evidence of identity. This is necessary to prevent documents being stolen. Old established firms often have extremely secure arrangements for storage. GHP Legal, for example, even has a bank vault at its premises in Llangollen.