Legal Professional Banned for Hoodwinking Authorities
At the back end of April 2023 the Solicitors Regulation Authority through the medium of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal handed down its ruling to a solicitor imposing a striking off order and financial sanction of fifty-thousand pounds over evidence appearing to suggest that she had deceived the regulatory authorities by not cooperating and inexplicably communicating information of a dishonest nature. The Regulator appears to have wanted to punish the legal professional by removing her practising certificate over allegations suggesting that she had hoodwinked the Insolvency Service and SRA.
What Happened In The Case?
The career of the legal professional had been a story of success until this point. She had accrued over two decades of legal industry expertise. However, all of this appeared to have crumbled in the blink of an eye when the SRA dramatically intervened in the provider the lawyer was associated with. The authorities appear to have stepped in after evidence suggested that the legal professional had committed eight acts of unprofessional conduct following its probe. Evidence indicated that the lawyer had sent approximately three-hundred client files to another legal service provider without client consent. The lawyer had also failed to cooperate with the regulatory authorities and inexplicably kept hold of client monies, violating the Solicitors Account Rules. The legal professional had also advised on immigration matters when unauthorised.
What Did the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Say?
When the lawyer had her feet held to the fire in the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal admissions were made to the allegations and it was communicated that it was driven by cash-flow problems. However, the SDT gave this excuse short shrift finding violations of the Code of Conduct Principles pertaining to Solicitors as they had conducted themselves in a way which:
- undermined public confidence in the profession
- was untruthful
- contrary to the best interests of the affected clients and
- violated the Solicitors Accounting Rules.
If legal professionals are reading this case, they should be taking a keen interest in it because they want to avoid sleep-walking into disaster. In this regard lawyers should consider:
- avoiding being driven by greed
- remembering their professional obligations under the Solicitors Account Rules
- resisting the temptation to keep a hold of client financial resources who have provided their instructions to legal service providers and trusted them to adhere to the regulatory requirements when taking responsibility for such financial resources
- not acting to charge monies from clients on behalf of providers of legal services when no such work has been carried out
- avoiding sending client files to other firms without the permission of the respective client who had initially provided instructions
- closely collaborate the regulatory authorities such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Insolvency Service to assist it with its inquiries
- ensuring that the authorities are not being provided with advice of an incorrect or misleading nature
- do all they reasonably can to gain the permission of clients should they want to transfer title in property
- checking whether they are authorised to provide legal advice in areas of law where they may not be permitted to by law
- closely collaborating with bodies such as the Ombudsman Service and
- respecting and adhering to decisions such oversight panels hand down.
Should legal professionals take the action as set out below it will mitigate the risk of similar incidents from taking place.
If you have experienced something similar, or have an opposing viewpoint, please kindly leave a comment on the article or contact us.
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