A recently-qualified criminal solicitor who worked on a clinical negligence claim outside her own practice has agreed to pay a fine of £12,500.
Leanne Schrouder, admitted in 2013, was working as a consultant with Maurice Andrews Solicitors when she was recommended to a potential client who had suffered serious injuries at the hands of a patient in the care of an NHS trust.
This client had approached the Midlands firm and was told by a partner, Natasha Bournes, that, while it did not do that kind of work, she thought Schrouder would be able to help.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that both Schrouder and Bournes carried out work for the client, who believed Schrouder was his solicitor. She believed she was assisting in a personal capacity through her business, Apex Legal Services, and providing general administrative services on an ad-hoc basis. Meanwhile, Bournes helped arrange appointments with expert witnesses but assumed she was assisting Schrouder.
In an agreed outcome with the SRA, both solicitors accepted they failed to provide the client with adequate information or a client care letter. The case proceeded with the court and NHS trust believing the client was representing himself.
The tribunal heard that the client paid Schrouder sums of money as the matter progressed at her request, until by August 2015 he had paid around £4,500. Schrouder then invoiced for a further £16,400, while Bournes submitted five invoices coming to £3,600. It was at this point that the client raised his concerns with the SRA.
Schrouder accepted she provided legal services but stressed she was not carrying out work for him in her capacity as a solicitor. In mitigation not agreed by the SRA, she said her lack of experience led to her poor judgement. She engaged with the SRA throughout, has learned from her mistakes, and accepted full responsibility.
Bournes, a solicitor for 20 years, pointed to an unblemished record and said she just wanted to help the client who was in dire straits with no legal assistance. She agreed a £6,500 fine with the SRA, which was approved by the tribunal. Each solicitor must pay £3,500 in costs.