The High Court has rejected a former solicitor’s appeal against a dishonesty finding over his dealings with a client.
Sitting in the High Court (Administrative Court) in Clegg v Solicitors Regulation Authority, Lord Justice Davis accepted Norwich solicitor Richard Clegg was trying to protect the reputation of his firm and was not motivated by financial gain, but found no reason to overturn the initial decision.
Clegg had appealed to the court against the finding – and subsequent strike-off – of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal last December.
Clegg was found to have misled a former clinical negligence client about a case his firm, GMS Law Limited, had later defended over fee payments due to a medical expert. The expert had successfully brought proceedings after he had been given late notice about the clinical negligence case settling - a case the client was not even aware of at the time.
The tribunal found Clegg was dishonest and lacked integrity because he failed to inform the client that the expert’s claim was against the firm and not her. Indeed, the firm’s letter to the client was ‘apt to mislead’ and had sought her instructions for an appeal against the fees decision and said the firm would represent her on a no win, no fee agreement.
It was found that Clegg omitted to provide any information that could suggest to the client the firm was in any way to blame for incurring the disbursements.
Davis LJ accepted Clegg was ‘most aggrieved’ at the outcome of the tribunal but found no reason to interfere with its decision.
It was accepted Clegg had no intention of deducting any costs from the client, and he may have even paid a further sum to her if the appeal against the expert was successful.
Nevertheless, said the judge, ‘a financial motivation is not always a necessary pre-requisite to a finding of lack of integrity and dishonesty’.
He said that the tribunal was reasonably entitled to assess and evaluate the evidence as it did, adding: ‘The fact that the appellant himself strongly disagrees with such assessment and evaluation is not, I am afraid, enough.’
Findings of lack of integrity and dishonesty were upheld, as was the sanction of striking off.