A solicitor of more than 50 years has been fined £15,000 after allowing her firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility for family members.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Robyn Moira Lynch managed her family’s finances through south London conveyancing and probate specialist Kenwright Lynch LLP for almost 18 years.

SRA investigators found that shortages on the family account were funded from the other balances held on the client account – effectively meaning client money was providing an overdraft facility.

Lynch said that all the payments represented disbursements from a family trust of which she was the sole trustee and her relatives were the beneficiaries. She had believed she was allowed to do this as acting as trustee was part of a solicitor’s normal regulated activities.

But the SRA submitted that this explanation did not hold, as the arrangement was highly informal and flexible and it was no part of a solicitor’s role to administer a family’s finances in such an ad hoc manner.

The regulator said: ‘The arrangements in this case amounted to little more than the informal administration of a family’s wealth, albeit subject to a vague understanding that that wealth is the common property of all (or at least some) family members.

‘A solicitor asked to use their client account for administering such an arrangement would and should refuse the instruction,' the statement continued. ‘Even if it were technically part of a solicitor’s normal regulated activities to act in this way, that would drive a coach and horses through the principle that a solicitor is not a bank and cannot operate their client account as a banking facility.’

Lynch qualified as a solicitor in New Zealand before being admitted in England and Wales in 1982. In mitigation she said she was an ‘honourable, hardworking and highly regarded solicitor’, and that the debit balances on client accounts had been unintentional, inadvertent and in error. No client lost any money and all shortages were duly repaid.

The tribunal said Lynch’s conduct had effectively enabled her family members to borrow funds from the client account: this occurred 11 times from 2001 to 2019 and included sums as large as £35,000. There was no evidence that the misconduct was deliberate or planned.

Lynch agreed to be fined £15,000 and to pay £20,000 towards the SRA’s costs.