Dishonest Lawyer Removed From Solicitors Roll


In early January 2023, industry enforcement arm the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal released into the public domain its decision to unceremoniously remove a person who had achieved the accolade of a solicitor in connection with proven allegations of trying to transfer a client of advancing years’ property at an amount significantly lower than the reasonable market rate. The SDT also criticised the legal professional for compiling a will for the respective client and was the only person who would receive assets. The regulator ruled that the conduct exhibited by the professional equated to hoodwinking the regulator by falsely representing that the elderly person was not a client and removed her from the solicitors’ roll. 

So Far…So Good

All was progressing well and she achieved a place on the prestigious Roll of Solicitors in 1993 and then progressed to establish her legal services provider in 1997. This case appears to have centred around events whereby a client of advancing years approached the legal services provider for guidance on the probate process following the loss of her former spouse. The estate consisted of a house. The elderly client was not affluent and resided on her own in a small flat. One year later and without the legal professional’s knowledge the client had contracted to convey a house to a person known as ‘Mister P’ for just over two hundred thousand pounds.     

In September 2011 when the legal professional had inexplicably compiled, witnessed and marked a legal document which conveyed the property for a quarter of a million pounds to her spouse with a clause stating that if the property was not conveyed, damages would be owed. There was also an inexplicable false statement purporting that independent legal advice had been utilised.  The probate process ended in 2014 and the property was valued at just under half a million pounds. As time proceeded the lawyer facilitated the conveyance between the client and her spouse to her husband for two hundred thousand pounds.         

Turn for the Worse

Matters declined in early 2015 when the legal professional’s marital relationship deteriorated. Her spouse’s lawyers stopped representing him due to the presence of the prior sale contract which put the property at an undervalue. The legal professional contested the allegations over five years. In 2020 the lawyer compiled a fresh will for the client which was overseen by some persons from her friendship group, to be executed by her and under which she would receive estate assets. Sadly, the client passed in January 2021.   

What Did The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Say?

The SDT disagreed with the lawyer’s attempt to resist the allegations finding that the elderly person was a client as shown in letters describing the person as a client and papers suggesting that the property was intended to be conveyed to the lawyer despite her protestations. It ruled that the legal professional had exploited the client and the way the will was arranged was a conflict of interest, carried out dishonestly, was dishonourable as it was influenced by greed, violated the trust of the person providing instructions and she attempted to hide her behaviour alleged against her former spouse.   

Pages Turned…Lessons Learned 

Those practising in the profession need to  be learning the following lessons: 

  • act professionally at all times
  • conduct themselves with honesty and integrity
  • avoid falsely representing to the SDT that persons who have provided instruction are not clients when evidence suggests the opposite is true
  • not putting themselves in a situation whereby there is a conflict of interest
  • uphold the trust the public places in legal professionals and

not being the only person to receive deceased assets. 

ASSESSING FIRMS 

#BlakeMorganLLP #Clyde&CoLLP #CapsticksLLP #Hempsons #KingsleyNapleyLLP #RadcliffeLeBrrasseurLLP #BatesWells #BrownJacobson #CMS #DACBeachcroft #Fieldfisher #HerbertSmithFreehills #RussellCookeLLP #BlackfordsLLP #KeoghsLLP 

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1] Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal – Solicitors Regulation Authority Ltd v Julia Cooper – Case Number 12213-2021 – 06 January 2023 – 12213.2021. J Cooper .pdf (solicitorstribunal.org.uk)

[SOURCE 2] Rose, Neil – Solicitor struck off for taking advantage of elderly client – 19 January 2022 - Solicitor struck off for taking advantage of elderly client - Legal Futures

[SOURCE 3] Principles 2  to 10 of SRA Principle 2011

[SOURCE 4] SRA Outcomes – Solicitors Code of Conduct

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