Lawyer Sanctioned Over Property Transaction Breaches
On 25th November 2022 the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal handed down its judgement in the case of a lawyer who had been found to have committed numerous breaches of their professional obligations.
What Happened In The Case?
The respective legal professional had achieved her qualification just shy of two decades ago in around September 2003 which provided her with eligibility to operate as a solicitor. From this time and until suspicions arose over her conduct the legal professional had a distinguished service within the profession. However, all the feelings of success quickly subsided when the provider of legal services employing her alerted the industry regulator using its notification procedures due to concerns centring around a small number of the matters she had been responsible for the conduct. The errors had only come to light once the respective legal professional had vacated her position with the organization and it emphasized that this was the reason for not so doing at an earlier stage. The three files concerned property matters whereby two purchasers and a lender had separately approached the lawyer to act on their behalf.
After a decade as a qualified practitioner of law, the wheels appear to have somewhat fallen off. The legal professional seems to have developed absent-mindedness and has not complied with her professional legal duties. Under normal circumstances, legal professionals immediately after the completion of transactions connected to property transactions are under an obligation to register the respective purchaser’s interests in such properties with His Majestys Land Registry. There is a sense of urgency as this must be carried out within thirty days under the auspices of the Land Registration Act 2003. However, the legal profession seems to have overlooked this important requirement to do so within the correct period and has seemingly carried on regardless in violation of the legal requirements.
Arguably just as serious, the regulator also alleged that the legal professional had on the evidence contravened a professional undertaking whereby she had submitted a formal promise to log the property with the Land Registry. Legal professionals in matters such as this are professionally, legally, and ethically bound to investigate whether any charges subsist over the property and are duty-bound to comply with the registration process in connection with these charges during tight timescales. However, that was not the case here. Evidence that emerged during the investigation appeared to demonstrate that the lawyer had not only made the solemn promise to do all she reasonably could to ensure the property was registered, she had additionally not registered the accompanying charges during the strict time limit.
If this was not serious enough, the Solicitors Regulation Authority had seemingly only scratched the surface in relation thus far. When it dug further it found that in early January 2016 the legal professional had acted unprofessionally in the way she had handled the matter. She appears on the evidence to have attempted to cover up her misdemeanors by offering incorrect statements to the affected clients as to why the logging of the transactions had not been carried out within the correct time frames.
Legal professionals need to be taking heed of this decision handed down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and should:
- steer clear of breaking promises made via undertakings
- conduct themselves in a truthful manner
- comply with requirements and timelines set down by law
- not give false impressions to clients regarding their files and
- avoid the need to cover up any errors to ‘save face’.
This will mitigate the risk of other legal professionals finding themselves in this predicament.
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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES
[SOURCE 1] Solicitors Regulation Authority Ltd and Nicola Helen Wilson – Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal – Case Number 12347-20222 - 12347.2022.Neilson.pdf (solicitorstribunal.org.uk)
[SOURCE 2] Rose, Neil – Fine for solicitor who failed to register clients’ interests – Legal Futures – 13 December 2022 - Fine for solicitor who failed to register clients' interests - Legal Futures
[SOURCE 3] Principle 2 SRA Principles 2011
[SOURCE 4] Principle 3 SRA Principles 2011
[SOURCE 5] Principle 4 SRA Principles 2011
[Principle 6] Principle 6 SRA Principles 2011
[SOURCE 7] Lu v SRA  EWHC 1729 (Admin) at 4