End of the Road For Experienced Lawyers

| General

In mid-April 2023 legal industry enforcement body the Solicitors Regulation Authority through the medium of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ordered a legal professional acting as a solicitor stopping him from operating in the esteemed profession. The authorities took the allegations raised seriously because they related to the incorrect sending of financial resources belonging to clients who had provided their instructions to the provider of legal services provider intended to pay Stamp Duty Land Tax connected with property transactions they were involved with facilitating. The Tribunal appears to have taken the matter so seriously to punish the legal professional and deter others contemplating violating the rules. It removed him from the solicitors’ roll and bestowed a financial sanction of approximately one-hundred-and-thirty-thousand pounds.   

What Happened In The Case?

The professional life of the lawyer had gone from strength to strength. He had seemingly climbed to the coveted position of legal service provider proprietor and occupied a management position having qualified in approximately 1994. However, all this career success crashed down quickly when evidence appeared to suggest that he had facilitated the sending of monies paid in by clients intended for the payment of stamp-duty-land-tax. 

However, instead of the money fulfilling this destiny, the lawyer appears to have had other ideas. He seemingly took the view that it was fine to utilize these financial resources for the payment of a separate client’s outstanding stamp duty payments. This on its own would have been serious. However, it is often the attempt to hide which catches people out and this case was no exception. Evidence suggested that the legal professional had accepted just shy of eleven thousand pounds from the separate client with full knowledge that he should not have been paid it.     

What Did the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Say?

To his credit, the legal professional admitted wrongdoing and the SDT commented that it had no other option but to remove his permission to operate as a solicitor.   

Lessons Learned? 

Persons providing their services in their professional guise as lawyers should carefully consider the circumstances of the above situation and think about the messages from it if they are not to fall foul of the regulatory authorities. They need to consider their professional conduct and take the following preventative steps to reduce the likelihood of it happening:
-    resist succumbing to the temptation of transferring financial resources belonging to the client when such action is not professionally required
-    remembering that their private bank accounts are separate from the client account
-    ensuring they are keeping their banking facilities for personal use
-    refrain from being tempted to send financial resources to their private accounts 
-    if legal professionals want to transfer client financial resources, they should first seek written authorization
-    consider their legal regulatory obligations under Solicitors Account Rules 
-    cooperative with regulatory authority probes and
-    ensuring that pre-emptive action is taken to limit the damage caused by such breaches through professional indemnity insurance covering potential losses. 

Whilst impossible to stop all incidents, legal professionals and legal service advisers can reduce the likelihood of a repeat performance by following the above course of action. If they choose to it will go a long way to reducing the chances of client monies being paid out without the express written consent of clients, no monies will be paid into the personal private banking facilities of legal professionals and the Account Rules governing solicitors will be adhered to.   
If you have experienced something similar, or have an opposing viewpoint, please kindly leave a comment on the article or contact us.  

Written by Adam Green

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