Dishonest Lawyer Banned From Practising As A Solicitor For 12 Allegations Of Misconduct

| General


On 9th December 2022, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal removed a legal professional from the roll due to twelve allegations of dishonest behavior. 

What Happened In The Case?

The legal professional’s career was progressing well. He achieved qualification in 2008 and before the allegations, had held an unrestricted practicing certificate for approximately fourteen years and the SRA had no reason to foresee any difficulties with the standard of his practice. He was recorded as having achieved the title of legal affairs director at two companies. 

However, all of this seeming career success appears to have come crashing down around his ears when the SRA received numerous complaints regarding the legal professional and specifically related to the correct application of monies belonging to clients. Such persons had provided instructions to the provider of legal services through the medium of the respective legal professional. This misapplication appears on the facts to have taken place in the thirteen months from around February 2016 and March 2017. The Solicitors Regulation Authority also received various accusations relating to the giving of advice that was interpreted by the regulator as being of a deceitful, confusing, and inaccurate nature to various commercial clients which included several companies. 

Examining the matters in a bit more depth the SDT discovered evidence that connected the legal professional directly to the movement of numerous amounts of client monies between the firm providing him with employment and other third-party legal organizations. Now laypersons may think that lawyers are busy and transfer monies daily. This is factually true. However, the circumstances surrounding this case are slightly different as the lawyer had moved monies to another legal service provider. 

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out…

All appears to have been fine from a legal perspective and the transaction seemingly proceeded without a glitch. However, when the Solicitors Regulation Authority examined the circumstances surrounding the movements of the monies from the client account which on the evidence belonging to the two clients they appear to have found alarming evidence which appeared to indicate that the legal professional at the centre of proceedings had proceeded to move the client monies:

  • without approaching the respective clients for their instructions 
  • had not communicated his intention to transfer and
  • had failed to obtain their express communicated permission to transfer the monies. 

This was not the end of the matter for the legal professional as in approximately May 2017 the evidence appeared to suggest that he had made a time recording entry on the provider of the legal services system which appeared to indicate that there had been a conversation with a client in which he had purportedly communicated with and taken instructions from said client regarding the movement of monies in the amount of ten thousand pounds to a company. However, the Solicitors Regulation Authority found that this was smoke and mirrors and had not taken place.      

What Did The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Say?

The regulator reviewed the evidence and found the legal professional’s conduct to be so reprehensible that it removed the lawyer from the Roll of Solicitors and ordered him to pay costs in the amount of just under forty-five thousand pounds. 

Lessons Learned? 

Legal professionals need to be taking on board the lessons from this case by

  • Taking instructions from clients regarding the transfers of client monies
  • Ensuring such advice is communicated in written form and 
  • avoiding moving client monies without the consent of the client.

Adhering to this strategy will enhance the probability of lawyers avoiding the likelihood of facing such allegations. 

ASSESSING FIRMS

#BlakeMorgan #LClyde&CoLLP #CapsticksLLP #Hempsons #KingsleyNapleyLLP &RadcliffesLeBrasseur #BatesWells #CMS #DACBeachcroftLLP #FieldFisher #HerbertSmithFreehills #Russell-CookeLLP #BlackfordsLLP #CharlesRussellSpeechlysLLP #KeoughLLP #MurdochsSolicitors #StepehensonsSolicItorsLLP

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1] Solicitors Regulation Authority Ltd v James Thomas Haigh (2022) Case No. 12357-2022 – Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal - 12357.2022.Haigh_.pdf (solicitorstribunal.org.uk)

[SOURCE 2] Hyde, John – Experienced solicitor struck off for 12 acts of dishonesty – Law Society Gazette – 4th January 2023 - Experienced solicitor struck off for 12 acts of dishonesty | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 3] Solicitors Regulation Authority Principles

[SOURCE 4] Solicitors Accounts Rules

[SOURCE 5] Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct for Solicitors

   

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