The High Court today granted an injunction against a prominent solicitor who continued to represent clients after her practising certificate was suspended to stop her ‘unlawfully’ acting as a lawyer.
Soophia Khan was automatically suspended in August after the Solicitors Regulation Authority intervened in relation to her Leicester practice Sophie Khan & Co Limited over suspicions of dishonesty.
She later announced that the firm had been taken over by a charity called Just for Public Ltd (JFP), adding: ‘Client work continues as normal’.
The SRA sought an order to prevent Khan carrying on reserved legal activities, arguing that she would continue to represent clients if an injunction was not granted.
Rupert Allen, for the SRA, told the court that Khan claimed to have transferred Sophie Khan & Co’s business to JFP before the intervention and asserted that she is ‘entitled to continue representing the former clients of [Sophie Khan & Co] through JFP as if the intervention has not occurred’.
Khan opposed the injunction, saying she was entitled to provide legal services through JFP despite her suspension, arguing that it was permitted under the true construction of sections 13(3) and 15(3) of the Legal Services Act 2007. She contended that, because a not-for-profit company is entitled to carry on reserved legal activities, its directors and employees must also be entitled to do so.
But Mr Justice Fancourt rejected her argument, saying: ‘I would find that a surprising conclusion to reach in the context of the regulatory context of the act.’ It was ‘clear’, he said, that section 13 of the 2007 act means that ‘any person who carries on reserved legal activities must be either authorised or exempt or, during the transitional period, a non-commercial body falling within section 23’.
‘While the non-commercial body itself does not need to be authorised during the transitional period, its entitlement does not mean that any individual working for the body is exempt from the requirement in section 13(2),’ Fancourt said.
He added: ‘She may not, as things stand, provide such services – indeed, it would be a criminal offence on the part of both JFP and Ms Khan for her to do so.’
The judge found that ‘without appropriate undertakings or an injunction there is a real risk that Ms Khan will hold herself out as entitled’ to act as a solicitor, and that an injunction would ‘effectively close an imagined loophole Ms Khan appears to be using’.
Fancourt also made an injunction against JFP in order to ’restrain it from carrying on any reserved legal activities through Ms Khan in her capacity as an employee or director’, but added that 'there is no reason to prevent JFP from doing so if it engages another authorised employee'.