A personal injury solicitor who misled clients about the progress on their cases has agreed she should be struck off the roll. Bethany Reay, who had risen to the position of non-member partner at Manchester firm JMW Solicitors, admitted acting dishonestly when she assured clients their cases were moving along.
She told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal she felt ‘intimidated and threatened’ by clients not prepared to accept that their claims could not proceed. She also made specific criticisms of her former firm, saying she was unable to cope with the demands of her role and tried to resign on more than one occasion.
Reay, 38 this year and a solicitor since 2007, faced six misconduct allegations following an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. She and the regulator made an agreed outcome which would result in her strike-off and paying £3,800 in costs.
The tribunal heard that in one case she received instructions in March 2012 for a clinical negligence claim worth up to £50,000. Proceedings were issued outside of the limitation period and were not served at all. When the claim was reviewed in June 2017, there was no evidence anything had been actioned for 10 months. For more than three years until Reay left JMW in August 2017, she failed to inform the client that proceedings were neither issued or served within the limits prescribed by Civil Procedure Rules. On five separate occasions she misled the client into believing his claim was being progressed properly.
In another case relating to a hip replacement claim, Reay misled both the client and NHS Litigation Authority about purported instructions to expert witnesses.
In mitigation - not necessarily accepted by the SRA – Reay said she had been suffering from an anxiety disorder and JMW was aware of her condition. She claimed to have been unable to cope with her workload and offered ‘little support’ by the firm, working extremely long hours and expected to work at the weekend and when she was on annual leave.
She failed to persuade clients to accept claims would not succeed and did not respond appropriately when she felt intimidated by clients. She is no longer practising or involved in any authorised legal work and does not intend to practise as a solicitor again.
In a statement, JMW said: ‘We are pleased that Ms Reay has acknowledged that striking off was the appropriate sanction in this instance and we do not wish to comment further.’