• Application 11629-2017

• Hearing 6 November 2017

• Reasons 28 November 2017

The SDT ordered that the first respondent (admitted 1985) should be suspended from practice as a solicitor for three months from 6 November 2017. Upon the expiry of that term of suspension the first respondent should be subject to the following conditions: that he might not (i) act as a sole practitioner, manager or owner of any authorised body or authorised non-SRA firm; (ii) act as a compliance officer for legal practice, or a compliance officer for finance and administration for any sole practitioner, authorised body or authorised non-SRA firm; or (iii) hold, receive or have access to client money, or act as a signatory to any client account or office account or have the power to authorise electronic transfers from any client or office account; (iv) that he should immediately inform any actual or prospective employer of those conditions and the reason for their imposition; (v) that he might not work as a solicitor other than in employment approved by the SRA; and that there should be liberty to either party to apply to vary the above conditions.

The SDT ordered that the second respondent (admitted 1999) should be suspended from practice as a solicitor for two years from 6 November 2017. Upon the expiry of that term of suspension, the second respondent should be subject to the same conditions as the first respondent.

The respondents had caused or permitted a debit balance of £9,611.16 to exist and a client account shortage of £85,933.64 in breach of principles 2, 6 and 10 of the SRA Principles 2011.

They had made withdrawals and transferred costs from client account in relation to the firm’s costs in the matters of certain clients without specific signed authority in breach of rules l.2(a), 20 and 21.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011; and (second respondent only) principles 2, 4, 5 and 6.

They had failed to provide certain clients with a bill of costs or other written notification of the costs incurred prior to payment in breach of rule 17.2 of the rules; and (second respondent only) principles 2, 4, 5 and 6.

They had failed to carry out adequate client account reconciliations in breach of rule 29.12 of the rules.

They had breached rules 1.2(f) and 29.9 of the rules in respect of client ledgers and client matter balances.

They had failed to deliver the firm’s accountant’s reports for the years ending 31 October 2012 and 31 October 2013 in breach of rule 32.1.

They had failed to rectify breaches promptly in breach of rule 7.1.

They had failed to run their business or carry out their roles in accordance with principle 8.

The first respondent was not the main protagonist but he had more experience than the second respondent, having been admitted 14 years before her and he was the firm’s COLP.

The second respondent’s motivation was that she was struggling; doing what she thought was the right thing in terms of the accounts rules of which she in fact had no knowledge. Her misconduct was therefore not planned but she was culpable for her ignorance.

The first respondent was ordered to pay costs of £9,714; the second respondent costs of £4,800.