Legal Professional In Hot Water Over Holiday Expenses

| General


At the back end of February 2023, news emerged of a legal professional emanating from the male demographic who had been made an example of by the industry regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The legal industry regulatory body on the evidence appears to have taken such a decision to remove from the prestigious roll of solicitors a person who had much career success and achieved the much sought-after accolade of not only solicitor but a partner in a provider of legal services. The matter was taken so seriously because the punishment was handed down by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in connection with his conduct related to allegations of dishonesty during an internal probe into expenses he had claimed regarding a family holiday.  

What Happened In The Case?

The case involved a person who had risen through the ranks of the legal profession to become a partner of a provider of legal services. However, all of this appears to have been washed away when evidence emerged suggesting that he had made unauthorized changes to the paperwork before interaction with internal colleagues which was due to take place in the form of a meeting to talk about a vacation the partner and one of his relatives, more particularly his daughter, had taken to the City of London for a four-week duration. 

The legal professional appears to have claimed that paperwork was put together several months before the internal investigation. However, the investigators uncovered evidence suggesting that the legal professional was fully aware that he was acting dishonestly when he put forward his defense. When the interaction took place during the scheduled meeting representatives investigating his alleged behavior put the allegations of wrongdoing to him that he had doctored the respective paperwork numerous months before the vacation to London. The regulator also accused the legal professional of asking for his administrative assistant to invoice clients for his private holiday costs. He claimed that he had submitted the costs claim erroneously and did not want to bill clients of the legal service provider for these costs. On balance, the SDT held this accusation to be inconclusive.              

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out…

However, contrary to the legal professional’s purported claim, the documents suggest that he had billed three client accounts for the costs of his personal family London city vacation in connection with: 

  • top of the range holiday accommodation
  • four items of luggage 
  • washing their clothing and
  • transportation via taxi to take their flight.  

When the legal professional was confronted with the evidence, he presumably felt that he had no alternative but to admit that the documents had been doctored. He also held his hands up and admitted that during the personal London vacation with his closest relatives, no commercial meetings occurred as had been scheduled. However, the SDT found against the legal professional in connection with the doctoring of documents as evidence received from his administration assistant seemed to suggest that this had occurred intending to hoodwink the provider of legal services about the timing of the events.             

Lessons Learned?

Legal professionals need to carefully consider this case and think about the implications. In this regard they should: 

  • avoid getting into a situation where they may be interpreted as doctoring expense documents
  • not be claiming holiday expenses from the sacrosanct client account and
  • be cooperative with internal and external investigations. 

This will mitigate the risk of similar lawyers being struck- off.  

If you have experienced something similar, or have an opposing viewpoint, please kindly leave a comment on the article or contact us.  

ASSESSING FIRMS

#BlakeMorgan #LClyde&CoLLP #CapsticksLLP #Hempsons #KingsleyNapleyLLP #RadcliffesLeBrasseur #BatesWells #CMS #DACBeachcroftLLP #FieldFisher #HerbertSmithFreehills #Russell-CookeLLP #BlackfordsLLP #CharlesRussellSpeechlysLLP #KeoughLLP #MurdochsSolicitors #StepehensonsSolicItorsLLP

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1]Hyde, John – Partner struck off for misleading probe into London trip expenses – Law Society Gazette - Partner struck off for misleading probe into London trip expenses | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 2] Practice Source – Law Firm partner struck off for misleading probe into London trip expenses - Law Firm partner struck off for misleading probe into London trip expenses | Practice Source - Legal News and Views - Asia Pacific and Beyond

[SOURCE 3 Principles 2  to 10 of SRA Principle 2011

[SOURCE 4] SRA Outcomes – Solicitors Code of Conduct

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