What Happens If A Lawyer Ignores Their Client, Fails To Do Any Work And Pockets the Money

What Happens If A Lawyer Ignores Their Client, Fails To Do Any Work And Pockets the Money?

Normally when lawyers take instructions from their clients they have a meeting, open a respective file and issue a client care letter to confirm instructions. Lawyers then act as instructed in return for a fee. However, in February 2022 news emerged of a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal decision to strike off a solicitor who had apparently taken instructions on a relatively straightforward immigration law matter.

By way of background the case dates back to June 2018 when the client approached the firm for immigration law advice. She wanted to secure her parents UK residency as they were European Economic Area residents. In response to the approach the now former solicitor represented to the client that his legal team had a successful track record in similar immigration law matters. His apparent confidence was supported by an email advising her that she would be guaranteed a ‘full refund’ if she was unsuccessful. The solicitor advised that the matter would be allocated to one of his team named ‘Imran’ who would apparently be competently handling her case.

The solicitor received £10,000 upfront from the client equating to fifty percent of the costs of providing the legal services. It was paid with the intention of ‘getting matters moving’. The statement appears to be ironic now as he inexplicably failed to act as instructed and did absolutely nothing further. The client had difficulty contacting the firm. She did not receive:

  • any more communication from anybody in the firm
  • any updates
  • further information; or
  • any response to her attempts to contact the firm.

When the client eventually managed to contact the firm after numerous unsuccessful attempts, she was amazed to learn that ‘Imran’ was not even employed by the solicitors’ firm she had instructed. The client contacted Imran and he apparently agreed to act in return for another £7,000 payment. The price included the completion of two sets of paperwork which were apparently required to support her application and two journeys to Spain for these papers to be completed. It was also seemingly necessary for the firm to send a legal representative to accompany the client on these two trips. However, after this the client was unable to contact Imran for an update. Having reached the end of her tether she politely threatened the firm with police action.

When this matter reached the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal the solicitor failed to communicate, assist it with its investigation or attend the disciplinary hearing. On the evidence the panel rebuked the solicitor for taking instructions, signing a retainer, knowing what was involved under its terms and then being deliberately elusive. The firm had seemingly pocketed the client’s money and had not provided any further updates. Due to this behaviour the panel handed down a costs order of just short of £22,000 and struck him off.

What Can Legal Professionals Learn From This Episode?

Legal professionals should act within the solicitors Code of Conduct and Account Rules. Communication is a basic requirement of the role. They should be:

  • Acting with honesty and integrity by communicating truthfully who bears responsibility for the daily conduct of their file
  • Providing timescales as to when they will be receiving updates, responses to various correspondence such as telephone calls, emails and letters
  • Managing client expectations
  • Avoiding guaranteeing a successful outcome
  • Ensure client monies received are paid into a designated client account
  • Resolve clients’ complaints collaboratively via internal complaints procedures to mitigate against the risk of escalation to the SDT

The SRA appears to be making an example of this type of conduct and lawyers should keep standards high to avoid being struck off.

The Legists Content Team

ASSESSING FIRMS

#BlakeMorganLLP #RadcliffesLeBrasseurLLP #BLM #CapsticksLLP #Clyde&Co #Hempsons #KingsleyNapleyLLP #BatesWells #BrownJacobsonLLP #CMS #DACBeachcroft # #FieldFisher #HerbertSmithFreehills #Russell-CookeLLP #BlackfordsLLP #Keoghs

SOURCES USED WHEN WRITING THIS ARTICLE

[1] Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal – Qunmber Bin Ehsan – Case Number 12267 / 2021 - 12267-2021.Ehsan_.pdf (solicitorstribunal.org.uk)

[2] Hyde, J – Solicitor received £10,000 from client then ignored her – 11 March 2022 - Solicitor received £10,000 from client then ignored her | News | Law Gazette

[3] Principle 2 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct

[4] Principle 4 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct

[5] Principle 5 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct

[6] Principle 6 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct

[7] Principle 10 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct

[8] Outcome 10.6 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct

[9] Paragraph 7.3 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct

[10] Paragraph 7.4 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct

[11] Rule 36 of the Solicitors (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules 2019

[12] R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5

[13] Civil Evidence Act 1995

[14] GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162

[15] Wingate v Solicitors Regulation Authority v Malins [2018] EWCA Civ 366

[16] Ivey v Genting Casinos [2017] UKSC 67

[17] Iqbal v SRA [2012] EWCA 3251

[18] Bolton v Law Society [1994] 1 WLR 512

banner

Articles

Stay Tuned

Receive regular news, updates, upcoming events and more...