Trowers & Hamlins had changed its rules so that its solicitors no longer get to keep the fees from taking statutory declarations and swearing oaths.
Previously the fee for signing a stat dec (usually £5 a pop) was a perk of the job at Trowers, as it is at most firms, providing solicitors with a little extra pocket money.
But now walk-ins who want a document stamped at the firm's Middle East offices are filling Trowers' pockets instead. Its Abu Dhabi, Oman, Bahrain and Dubai offices have been instructed to compel its England and Wales-qualified solicitors to hand over the cash they make from oaths, statutory declarations and certification of documents, said a source.
A reporter posed as an expat seeking a stat dec for his seventh UK buy-to-let back in the UK, and was able to confirm in calls to Trowers' Middle East offices that a 210 dirham fee inclusive of VAT (equating to an extremely hefty £45) would be charged, cash-only, and would go to the firm.
Trowers and one of its lawyers.
Close to £100,000 has poured into Trowers coffers as a result, said a source, with proceeds labelled as "extra income" which was "voluntarily donated" to the firm.
"Even partners are being forced to certify documents throughout the day for expats walking in off the streets", railed an insider, "to make as much money as possible for the greedy London HQ".
But a partner (not from Trowers) suggested that it was fairer for the cash to be sent to the employers for distribution as they saw fit. "Actually the idea that money employees earn for stuff they do at work going to the firm and being shared out, rather than just being kept by the individual, is not that controversial really", he said.
Trowers declined to comment.