The Solicitors Regulation Authority has fined national firm Irwin Mitchell over the changing of clients’ funding arrangements eight years ago.
In a decision notice published today, the regulator said the firm failed to give proper advice before switching the funding of their case from legal aid to a conditional fee agreement.
In doing so, the notice said, Irwin Mitchell failed to act in the best interests of clients or provide a proper standard of service, and did not ensure that clients were in a position to make informed decisions about the options available to them.
The firm was ordered to pay a £9,000 fine and £1,350 costs.
Irwin Mitchell has already faced heavy penalties for moving cases to a more profitable costs regime.
In March 2018, the Court of Appeal stripped the firm of £270,000 in costs after finding that clients were not given adequate advice about funding changes in claims against three different NHS trusts.
Lord Justice Lewison said in his ruling: ‘The bottom line is that in each of the three cases the advice given to the client had exaggerated (and in two cases misrepresented) the disadvantages of remaining with legal aid funding; and had omitted entirely any mention of the certain disadvantages of entering into a CFA.’
An Irwin Mitchell spokesperson said: ‘These matters occurred during a short period in 2013 when the SRA itself notes that there was considerable confusion in the run up to the LASPO law reforms as to how legal aid and other funding would operate. We’ve since taken steps to rectify issues arising from the switch decisions.’