Move comes after Legal Aid Agency referred Blavo & Co to the police
A national law firm that is notorious for its huge fake social media following has been shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) amid suspicions of “dishonesty”.
The worried professional regulator has this morning taken the extreme measure to close with immediate effect Blavo & Co after the Legal Aid Agency “identified significant concerns” about claims from the firm and referred it to the police.
In a statement the SRA said that it “will stop the firm from operating, take possession of all documents and papers held by the firm (including clients’ papers), and take possession of all money held by the firm (including clients’ money).”
Worryingly for Blavo & Co’s lawyers, who were all put on a redundancy consultation last week, the regulator added:
The SRA is not responsible towards employees or trade creditors of firms that we have intervened in.
Despite its bizarre social media situation — as Legal Cheek reported in 2012, the 40,000 followers of Blavo’s now deleted @LegalBlavo Twitter account are almost all fake bots — the firm is one of the UK’s largest legal aid providers, with particular strength in mental health work. But not only is Blavo now absent on social media, its own website has now even disappeared.
Blavo employs more than 240 staff across 18 offices in cities including London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.
Last week the firm attributed the move to reduce staff numbers to government cuts to legal aid, with its senior partner, John Blavo, stating that the “knock-on effects of legal aid cutbacks have severely impacted upon the number of cases we are allowed to be paid for”.
The SRA confirmed this morning that as part of its dramatic intervention the practising certificate of Blavo — who readers of The Independent will know for his “The Football Lawyer” column — has been automatically suspended so that he cannot practise as a solicitor.
It added that “there is reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of John Blavo in connection with his practice”, with the closure taking place to “protect the interests of clients of Blavo & Co Solicitors Limited”.
Solicitors have the right to challenge intervention into their firm.
In a statement issued this morning, Blavo said:
The firm has been advised, by the SRA, that it wishes to intervene. We have not been provided with an opportunity to make representations. We are currently taking legal advice and do not wish to make any further comments at this stage.