'Brutal shock' as two law firms close doors in Leighton Buzzard over watchdog investigation

Two law firms have been forced to close in Leighton Buzzard while their parent company is being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Sunday, 16th August 2020, 9:17 pm
Updated Sunday, 16th August 2020, 9:44 pm
Giffen Couch & Archer in Bridge Street
Giffen Couch & Archer in Bridge Street

The Bridge Street offices of 230-year-old law firm Giffen Couch & Archer closed for good on Thursday, August 13, while Ray Nixon Brown in Church Square was shut down the day previously.

The closures are a result of action taken by the SRA, who are investigating Kingly Solicitors Ltd - the owners of 16 solicitors’ businesses across the UK, including Giffen Couch & Archer and Ray Nixon Brown.

In a notice, the SRA said Kingly Solicitors - which has operated under an alternative business model since 2017 - has not complied with the terms of its licence.

Tony Taylor from Giffen Couch & Archer

The SRA also alleges there is “reason to suspect dishonesty” by Nurul Miah as a manager of the firm. Mr Miah is not a regulated lawyer and resigned as a director in May last year.

Giffen Couch & Archer (GCA) is one of the oldest law firms in Leighton Buzzard and it was founded in 1790.

Tony Taylor has worked at GCA since 1973 and was its owner and managing director at the time of the sale to Kingly just four months ago.

Mr Taylor said: "The closure of the firm has been a brutal shock to all of us.

"Although GC&A became part of Kingly Solicitors in April this year, it has been managed as a completely separate and independent entity.

"It has, as always, maintained the highest standards of service, honesty and integrity."

SRA rules mean that any firm owned by a third party under investigation must also stop work.

"It’s a harsh rule, but particularly so when no wrongdoing by GC&A has occurred," said Mr Taylor.

"The sale of our firm had promised new opportunities for all of us at Bridge Street, and our clients.

"The future looked very bright."

Clients of Giffen Couch & Archer will be approached by the SRA, with advice on transferring their business to new advisors of their choice. Meanwhile, the 14 staff based at GC&A will now be made redundant and employment prospects are described as "currently challenging".

"The SRA is simply following the rules. But we know from conversations we’ve had with them there are no concerns about the integrity of probity of our business and none of the team face investigation," Mr Taylor added.

"Someone distant from us, in every sense, is suspected of wrongdoing. And good people suffer the consequences."

On the behalf of GC&A, Mr Taylor thanked all clients, staff, suppliers and contacts for their support and help over the many years the firm has practised.

Ray Nixon Brown has been approached for comment by the LBO. Its files have meanwhile been passed to Devonshires Solicitors LLP in London.