A former partner who admitted dipping into the client account to prop up his ailing firm has agreed to be struck off the roll. Robert Nigel Wiggans, who was also compliance officer at West Yorkshire firm Hellewell Pasley & Brewer, made five improper transfers totalling £86,150 from the client to the office account, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard.
The money went to cover the firm’s overheads, and the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Wiggans attempted to conceal the misconduct by false accounting.
The firm, which had around 30 staff members, was shut down following an SRA intervention in April 2014.
Wiggans, 59 this year, explained that he had been one of two partners trying to deal with financial issues going back several years. He assumed full responsibility for the misconduct and apologised to other members of the profession for his behaviour, adding that intervention had been necessary.
The tribunal heard that the firm had relied on income from property and conveyancing work but revenue fell significantly following the financial crisis in 2008. Efforts were made to incentivise fee earners through bonus schemes, but these led to more difficulties.
Wiggans said he had been naïve to take on too much responsibility for fixing the problems. At one point he suffered a severe panic attack and was prescribed medication.
The tribunal heard character references from two church ministers and the chief executive of a local charity, and Wiggans stressed that he retained the ‘utmost respect’ for the profession.
The tribunal judgment states: ‘His actions were planned, when he needed money for the business he would transfer monies from client to office account, regardless as to whether it was properly due.’
Wiggans, a solicitor for 31 years, also agreed to pay £9,777 in costs.