A veteran solicitor has admitted failing to spot improper transfers being made at the firm where he was a joint partner.

Sheldon Leaman, a solicitor for 40 years and a former principal at London firm Alexander Marks LLP, admitted he had failed to ensure that employees were complying with accounts rules.

A cash shortage of £247,000 at the London firm was discovered only after the practice merged with two other firms in October 2015.

Following the merger, the successor firm identified a number of matters transferred to it from Alexander Marks and reported concerns to the Solicitors Regulation Authority: it was subsequently discovered that the shortage had been caused by improper transfer of costs from client to office bank account and by improper inter-ledger transfers between unrelated client matters.

According to an SRA published notice, Leaman said he was unaware of the actions of his business partner and the firm’s bookkeeper, nor would he have condoned what was happening. ‘I am truly sorry and embarrassed that at the end of my career I find myself for the first time wanting in my professional duties and that has caused my regulator unnecessary time and expense in having to deal with matters that should never have taken place in a well run professional practice.’

Leaman said no client had suffered financial loss and all trade creditors have been paid. He agreed to pay a £2,000 fine and to pay one-third of the SRA’s costs, amounting to £2,292.