A tribunal has struck off a former law firm sole partner who continued practising for two years after it was supposed to have closed. Huw Price, a solicitor for 25 years, continued to lie to the Solicitors Regulation Authority about the winding down of his south Wales firm Valleys Law, failing to disclose that more than £20,000 was still held in the client account.
The firm notionally closed in April 2015 and Price was fined £1,000 by the SRA four months later for continuing to provide legal services.
But in the subsequent months the SRA received reports from two other law firms saying Price’s practice had been working on matrimonial matters. Price used the firm’s headed paper and referred to ‘his client’ in a divorce case.
This prompted an investigation into whether Valleys Law had paid back monies owed on the client account: initially Price told investigators had had paid the outstanding balance of £3,000 by cheque.
He later accepted the money held from the closure of Valleys Law was likely to be around £10,000. Having obtained bank statements for the firm in April 2017, it was found the balance of the client account was £20,138.
Before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in August, the SRA submitted Price continued to run the firm on his own after it was officially closed, without authorisation and in breach of his practising certificate conditions. He then proceeded to mislead and lie to the SRA over the next two years.
The tribunal said Price ‘must have known’ that his client account held more than he stated and that he gave false information only after being forced to do so.
The judgment added: ‘He lied cumulatively as he was repeatedly asked about the position and chased for information. [Price] followed a deliberate strategy to mislead.’
It was also found Price failed to notify the SRA that he had been adjudged bankrupt in May 2017. He did not even disclose this update when he applied in June 2017 to have the suspension of his practising certificate lifted so he could work at another firm.
Price was not present at his hearing and did not submit any mitigation, except to email and apologise for his mistakes which led to the SRA intervention in his former practice. As well as being struck off, he was ordered to pay around £24,000 in costs.