Lawyer Sanctioned For Large Gaps In Account Rules Knowledge

| General


On 21st November 2022 the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal handed down a judgment against a legal professional, who had achieved the accolade of solicitor, imposing an order in the form of sanction relating to some major breaches of the Solicitors Accounts Rules. The matter was so serious for the reason that the legal professional had allowed arrears to accumulate. The deficit had somewhat gotten out of control to say the very least and had accumulated to an amount of over forty thousand pounds. 

What Happened In The Case?

When the Solicitors Regulation Authority examined the evidence in connection with the matter, it launched an investigation and it found that the legal representative at the heart of the proceedings had perceptively to the layperson done extremely well. She was permitted to practice as a solicitor in the jurisdiction by way of a practicing certificate, in the position of the registered proprietor, owner, and director of a provider of legal services. The organization also had her in a post in its three key positions. She was reportedly acting as the firm’s Compliance Officer for Legal Practice, also known as the abbreviated form ‘COLP’, Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration, also known under the abbreviated form ‘COFA’ and if the first five roles were not enough to have on the legal professionals’ plate, she also reportedly occupied the office of Money Laundering Reporting Officer, also known by the abbreviation ‘MLRO’. The Regulator proceeded to examine the Report initiated by a Qualified Accountant in the period commencing on 1st October 2016 and the late May of 2016 and when it did so it made for decidedly uncomfortable reading for the legal profession. It found that the lawyer had committed significant violations of the Rules about Solicitors Accounts and serious frailties in the organization’s structure in respect of its compliance with the Solicitors Account Rules. 

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out?

When the Solicitors Regulation Authority examined the details of the Account Rule breaches in more granular detail they discovered three concerning areas for which they demanded an explanation and for which it was determined to hold the legal professional to account. The first involved the period between October 2016 and the end of September 2018 when the legal professional appears on the evidence to have made incorrect payments in the amount of just shy of thirty-five thousand pounds from the sacrosanct client account to the office account. There was also evidence showing that the lawyer had allowed approximately three thousand pounds of money to be wrongly paid out of the legal organization’s office account and payments had erroneously been paid from the client’s account of around four thousand pounds. The Regulator also discovered that in this same period had negated her duty to compile acceptable reconciliations on the client accounts. The most serious discovery made by the regulator was a forty-thousand-pound deficit on the client account. These actions were violations of the Solicitors Regulation Authorities Principles and were also in contravention of Account Rules for Solicitors. 

How Did The Legal Professional Explain This?

When confronted with the evidence the lawyer admitted the allegations and agreed that her understanding of the Account Rules knowledge had enormous cavities.   

Pages Turned…Lessons Learned?

This judgment should send the alarm bells ringing for legal professionals and they need to be mindful of:

  • keeping their knowledge up to date in terms of the Account Rules and Principles 

  • not allowing a large deficit to build upon client accounts and

  • ensuring that incorrect payments are not being made from monies held in the client and office account. 

ASSESSING FIRMS

#AddleshawGoddard #CMS #EvershedsSutherlandLLP #DLAPiper #PinsentMasonsLLP #Shoosmiths #BrabnersLLP #DavittJonesBould #DWF #GateleyPlc #HillDickinsonLLP #JMWSolicitorsLLP #KuitSteinartLevy #Mills&Reeve #SquirePatonBoggs #TLT #Clyde&CoLLP #BrowneJacobson

SOURCES USED WHEN WRITING THIS ARTICLE

[SOURCE 1] Solicitors Regulation Authority Ltd and Danielle Louise Shawcross – 21 November 2022 – Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal - 12359.2022.Shawcross.pdf (solicitorstribunal.org.uk)

[SOURCE 2] Hilborne, Nick – Solicitor had “massive holes” in accounts knowledge - 8 March 2022 - Owner fined for dipping into client funds to pay the bills | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 3] Shawcross, Danielle Louise – Solicitors Regulation Authority - SRA | Person details | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[SOURCE 4] Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011

[SOURCE 5] Solicitors Regulation Authority Principles 

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