A north-west law firm has accused the Solicitors Regulation Authority of ‘inappropriate meddling’ in a long-running row involving a third-party complaint that has now been taken up in parliament.
Paul Cowdrey has been in dispute with Rochdale firm Keoghs Nicholls Lindsell & Harris for more than four years over its handling of his late father’s estate.
Cowdrey, who claims he was advised by the former Legal Complaints Service that he would not be liable for costs in a complaint about alleged misconduct, faces a bill of more than £127,000 to cover the costs of the complaint and a subsequent court hearing.
His case has been taken up by Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, who is angered by what appears to be a loophole denying costs protection to someone who was a beneficiary of a will but not the client.
The firm, meanwhile, is considering seeking redress against the SRA after Danczuk said in the House of Commons that its actions had been ‘morally reprehensible’. He was quoting a letter to Danczuk from SRA chief executive Antony Townsend, who said he did not ‘condone’ the firm even though he conceded there was ‘no legal obligation’ on it to treat Cowdrey as a client.
Keoghs partner Michael Sandler, in a letter sent to Cowdrey earlier this month seen by the Gazette, said he was ‘highly aggrieved’ by this intervention of the SRA and its ‘ill-informed comments’ about him to the MP.
Sandler proposed that the firm and complainant work together to share information on their experiences of the SRA.
The SRA has told the MP and Cowdrey that it is powerless to stop Keoghs enforcing the costs order, in spite of any advice he may previously have received.
An SRA spokesperson said: ‘As much as the SRA might sympathise with Mr Cowdrey’s position, the court decision is that he has to pay significant costs. Our regulations protect the client, but in these circumstances Mr Cowdrey is not the client but one of the beneficiaries.’
Danczuk told the Gazette that he wants an adjournment debate on the issue and has called on the Ministry of Justice to intervene.