Lawyers Warned After Consultant Barred Over Payment

| General


In mid-January 2023 the Solicitors Regulation Authority handed down its long-awaited decision to a legal professional who was entered into the prestigious roll of solicitors and working in his capacity as a Consultant. The decision appeared to have been connected with unprofessional conduct involving accusations related to the person’s sending out invoices to clients and doing all they reasonably could to conceal payments from the legal service provider he was providing services to.

In its judgment, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal commented further that the legal professional at the center of the case had taken instructions from three clients who had not on the facts of the case taken any steps to neither take instructions from clients nor do anything to follow the folder opening process. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal made an example of the legal professional for his behavior by making an order preventing him from working in the legal sector as a solicitor.             

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out…

The legal professional’s career has rocketed and he was enormously successful having achieved his practicing certificate which permitted him to act in his capacity as a solicitor and provided him with a practicing certificate and a coveted place on the Roll of Solicitors. Two decades after the legal professional had achieved his qualification he was providing his legal services in his capacity on a consultancy basis to a legal services provider located in Bristol. The professional would pay forty percent of his fee and tax to the legal services provider. At the time of this arrangement, the legal professional was not permitted to act solely in his own right and was only allowed to act via the provider of legal services.

The matter, in this case, appears to concern the sending of a document in the form of a bill that was sent in the name of the provider of legal services. However, despite not being permitted to practice in the profession in his sole capacity he made the seemingly fatal error of sending a bill to the client in his name. This was not the end of the matter as the legal professional operating in a personal capacity had made a second error when he incorrectly communicated with the client that the payment was exclusive of the payment of Value Added Tax. The legal professional had claimed that the approach to the client was attributable to monetary troubles being experienced by his relatives.

Turn for the Worse

One can only make a presumption that the client on receiving the request from the legal professional has read the correspondence, reviewed it, felt suspicious of the somewhat unusual request, and declined his written invitation to pay the monies exclusive of Value Added Tax. In response to the request, he communicated his concerns to the provider of legal services to whom the Consultant supplied his services. The provider was seemingly worried about what had been communicated to them and sent communications to the Regulator.        

What Did The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Say?

Whilst empathizing with the legal professional about why he had made the unusual approach to the client and making it clear that he did not want to take pecuniary advantage of clients.  However, despite this, the Regulator was concerned he had requested a payment to be made directly to him and communicating with him. It found his behavior to lack honesty. 

Pages Turned…Lessons Learned 

Lawyers working under this form of arrangement should: 

  • follow the file-opening process
  • not approaching firm clients requesting personal payments
  • avoiding misleading clients and
  • uphold public confidence in the industry.

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  Christopher Kenneth Scroggs – Case Number 12362-2022 – 12 January 2023 – 12362-2022.Scroggs.pdf (solicitorstribunal.org.uk)

[SOURCE 2] Rose, Neil – Warning for fee-share consultants in solicitor’s strike-off  – 10 February 2023 - Warning for fee-share consultants in solicitor's strike-off - Legal Futures

[SOURCE 3] SRA Practice Framework Rule 2011 (Framework Rules) 

[SOURCE 4] SRA Principles 2011

[SOURCE 5] SRA v Sharma [2010] EWHS 2022 (Admin)

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