A Lancashire solicitor has been struck off the roll after the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found he had failed to act with integrity.
Timothy Schools, from Sedbergh, Cumbria, formerly a director of ATM Solicitors in Preston, was struck off in May after the tribunal found 10 allegations brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority proven against him.
The allegations included failing to act with integrity, acting where there was a conflict of interests, and acting in a manner which led to his and his firm’s independence being compromised.
The allegations related to the solicitor and his firm’s involvement acting on behalf of clients who challenged the enforceability of various consumer credit agreements and the interest held by Schools in other organisations involved in the litigation, giving rise to a conflict of interest.
It also concerned the way in which the work and the firm was funded; the extent to which Schools allowed the firm’s independence to be put at risk, and the extent to which non-solicitor third parties were able to exercise an inappropriate level of control and influence over the activities of the firm.
The tribunal found Schools, who did not attend the hearing, was the subject of very serious charges, almost every aspect of which had been proved against him.
It said the seriousness of the misconduct was aggravated by the fact that the respondent’s actions were quite deliberate and continued for a period of time.
Schools was an experienced solicitor who had been in practice since 1999.
The tribunal found he had been motivated by financial gain and the misconduct arose from the way he operated the firm.
It said his disregard for clients, in favour of his own financial interests, was damaging to the reputation of the profession. The tribunal rejected his written application that the hearing be stayed pending an appeal.
SRA director of legal and enforcement Gordon Ramsay said: ‘This is Mr Schools’ second appearance at the Tribunal for similar breaches of the Code of Conduct. His deliberate conduct fell so far below the standard required of a solicitor that striking off was the only appropriate course of action.’
Schools has 21 days from receipt of the SDT’s judgment to appeal.
The judgment can be read here.