The new practice note issued by The Law Society on 30 July 2008 relating to bank charges for money transfers is something that those looking at the introduction of financial regulation for patent and trademark attornies should read with care. The new note reflects the practice as I have always understood and applied it under the Law Society Accounts Rules. Applying it in a UK solicitor's firm while conducting an international law practice puts you at a disadvantage to the unregulated attorney as I know from experience. When financial rules were introduced by the patent and trademark attorney regulator I had hoped they would be more realistic but so far the regulator is trying to avoid making such rules. I personally doubt that this is likely to be acceptable. Why should an IP client be faced with different regimes? If the new regualtory scheme is to work there has to be a level of harmonisation.
Personally I think there is a middle ground particualrly for payment of overseas fees which we may want to bill in advance. Lets tell the client how we calculate and then he can compare terms of trade as between attornies. The cartoon relates to the introduction of bank notes to replace payments in gold by the Bank of England in 1797.
My rule at Filemot is to convert at the rate given on http://www.xe.com/ and add 3% plus £10. I make my payments through TransGlobal's PayFac ® service. If I have money on account then the client gets the disbursment at actual cost which is a tad less because TransGlobal offers very competitive rates. If you use your bank you might need to check whether 3% is enough and of course the £10 charge may vary. Transglobal don't charge you a membership fee. If you want to include an element of risk of currency fluctuations it would be fair in these times to make the percentage more but then you could make a profit.
If you want this procedure to comply with the Solicitors accounts rules you must pay into client account or immediately return any profit you make when the disbursment is paid. You could also include the losses as a disbursment but the Law Society told me once that it was alright to absorb them. It works OK when you are billing the management of an international portfolio on a regular basis.
It would be helpful to know what IP clients think about this. Do they ever enquire how their foreign payments are handled whether they are using law firms, registered attorneys or other agents?