SRA Rules Pro Bono Lawyer Overstepped Mark

| General


In mid-November 2022 news emerged which will act as a warning to all those who have achieved or are aspiring for a career in the legal profession. 

What Happened In the Case?

A lawyer with more than thirteen years of expertise within the profession and specializing in criminal litigation was appearing to be progressing and he was promoted to associate. In the proceedings, two clients approached the legal professional in their capacity as mother and father to their two children. The matter eventually became litigious when the two parties became embroiled in a seemingly heated, bad-tempered, and acrimonious clash in 2008 which related to a child arrangement that had been put in place between the couple at the center of the proceedings. To emphasize the seriousness of the dispute, the authorities decided to hear the case in the High Court and more particularly the division which specializes in family law matters. 

 The legal professional named in the proceedings was not involved at first and several legal professionals had acted on her behalf during the life span of the dispute. Somewhere along the,line the High Court appears to have handed down a Prohibited Stakes Order to the mother of the two children in approximately mid-March 2019. This had the effect of restricting her from communicating with her children via several methods or the education establishment where the children attend for schooling purposes in the absence of consent. In terms of living arrangements the children resided with their father and his new partner, and the female was also barred from visiting the residence of the respective father. 

The mother seemingly required representation and approached the legal representative. The services were provided for free on a pro bono basis as the relationship was an informal one and based seemingly on a longstanding friendship. Throughout the period of instruction, the legal procedural and professional advice relating to the Children Act 1989 court proceedings. 

Nothing to See Here?     

Under normal circumstances, this arrangement would not have been out of the ordinary as the public perception is of instructions being given to legal professionals daily. However, in this case, evidence appeared to demonstrate that the lawyer was instructed to act away from his usual Criminal law specialism and separate from the provider of legal services employing him. The facts that appeared to have piqued the interests of the Solicitors Regulation Authority was the fact that the legal representative lacked training, expertise, and competence to act within this area because of the way he had behaved during the proceedings. The reason given to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for why the legal representative had taken on the instructions from the mother client was based on friendship and to provide assistance to the female parent. He even admitted having feelings of sympathy. 

What Did The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Say?

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal reviewed the evidence which had been submitted to it and eventually arrived at the decision that the legal professional was personally blameworthy for events. This was because he had been the responsibility for arranging, thinking, and organising the action. He had had a sufficient level of expertise and took personal command of events in the case. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal were of the belief that the lawyer’s behaviour had caused excessive harm to all persons involved in the legal proceedings and the legal industry 

Pages Turned…Lessons Learned?

Legal professionals reviewing this case should avoid:

  • acting in legal areas where they have no experience

  • being perceived as taking unfair advantage of clients 

  • bringing the legal profession into disrepute and

  • behaving incompetently in terms of their professional obligations.  

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] Hyde, John – Solicitor fined £40,000 over botched pro bono work–  15 November 2022 – Law Society Gazette - Solicitor fined £40,000 over botched pro bono work | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 2] Solicitors Regulation Authority Ltd v James Brookes – Case No. 12342-2022 – Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal - 12342.2022.Brookes.pdf (solicitorstribunal.org.uk)

[SOURCE 3] Principle 2 SRA Principles 2011

[SOURCE 4] Principle 3 SRA Principles 2011

[SOURCE 5] Principle 6 SRA Principles 2011

[SOURCE 6] Outcome 10 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011

[SOURCE 7] Outcome 11 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011

[SOURCE 8] Rule 12 of the Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules 2019

[SOURCE 9] Children Act 1989

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