A solicitor who vastly overcharged on bills to the estate of a deceased client has been struck off.
Christopher William Edwin Greenman charged for 57 days’ work on the estate of Mrs DMK, who died in 2010, and ended up charging around £90,000 over four bills.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard his fees were supposed to be limited to around £11,125, which equated to 3% of the estate. Instead his legal costs equated to 20% of Mrs DMK’s entire estate.
The tribunal judgment, published this week, said Greenman had ‘taken advantage’ of the fact that the residual beneficiary was not a family member but a charity, adding that depriving the charity of this money was ‘disgraceful’.
Greenman, 50 next year, has been a solicitor for 17 years and was the equity and senior partner at Leicester firm Dews Witcomb. After the firm closed in 2012, he moved on to employment at Leicestershire firm JS Law.
Robert Dews, who sold the firm to Greenman in 2007, told the tribunal he had drafted the will for Mrs DMK and considered the firm would receive a fixed 3% fee for dealing with the probate. When he became aware of financial problems at the firm, he took on his old files and saw Mrs DMK’s estate had been billed £90,000. He was said to be ‘horrified’ and reported the matter to the SRA and police.
Greenman, who did not appear at last month’s hearing, denied any wrongdoing, saying he was looking after the entirety of the estate and had kept the executor fully aware of the costs. Paperwork to back this up may have been discarded when Dews sought to remove files from the premises, he stated.
He described the case against him as ‘frivolous’ and said many of the hours charged for were spent overseeing building works at the client’s property.
But the tribunal said the 574% overcharge was ‘manifestly excessive’ and made without any discussion with Dews. The only obvious explanation for his decision to disregard accounts rules about fee charging was to conceal the sums he was claiming. Overseeing home repairs, the SRA had argued, was not part of a solicitor’s duties.
The tribunal judgment added: ‘The extent of the overcharging was such that he could not have genuinely believed his fees were reasonable.’
As well as being struck off, Greenman must also pay £10,000 in costs.