A highly experienced solicitor who arranged ‘surreptitious’ visits to clients’ homes and asked for payments in cash has been banned from the profession.
Ian Brill, a consultant with Leeds firm The Miah Solicitors Limited, received £780 in total from five clients and failed in each case to account for the money to the firm.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Brill would meet clients at their homes to draft wills, often with his wife alongside him in case she was required to act as a witness to various documents. He asked for cash payments.
Brill admitted acting without integrity but denied dishonesty: the tribunal, however, said he knew he had a duty to account for money received and knew it was dishonest to retain payments.
In a judgment published this month, the tribunal said: ‘[Brill] was entirely culpable for his misconduct and was an experienced solicitor who knew the requirements in relation to client monies.
‘[His] actions were deliberate, calculated and repeated. Further he had tried to conceal his actions: he attended the home addresses of his clients, without the firm having any knowledge of those visits. He even arranged for his wife to attend with him… to enable matters to be concluded such that the client would not need to attend the office, leaving the firm unaware of any financial instructions.’
Following a complaint from one client and review of his case files, it was also discovered that Brill, a solicitor for 40 years, had made a number of mistakes in the handling of other matters which amounted to misconduct.
While conducting four matters on behalf of clients, he failed to comply with court directions, prepared an inadequate court bundle, instructed counsel late and prepared wills that were defective.
The mistakes led to a string of adverse costs orders against the firm; in one right of way dispute, Brill ignored requests from the client to instruct counsel earlier and waited until the week before the hearing. The case was lost on a point of law and the firm agreed to pay £18,000 costs to the client.
In mitigation, Brill said that he had lacked help from the firm having agreed to undertake litigation and other work which he had not conducted for a number of years. He criticised the accounting systems at the firm and said he had become depressed and demotivated for a number of personal and professional reasons.
He said the amounts of money involved were ‘de minimis’ when set against larger sums he was owed by the firm in salary and commission. He had denied dishonesty partly on the grounds that he thought he could keep money that he was owed by the firm.
The tribunal opted to strike off Brill and ordered him to pay £14,000 in costs.