• Application 11515-2016
• Admitted 1999
• Hearing 3 November 2016
• Reasons 20 December 2016
The SDT ordered (1) that the respondent might not practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body; be a partner or member of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure or other authorised or recognised body; be a compliance officer for legal practice or a compliance officer for finance and administration; hold client money; be a signatory on any client or office account; or work as a solicitor other than in employment; (2) that she must immediately inform any actual or prospective employer of those conditions and the reasons for their imposition; and (3) that there should be liberty to either party to apply to vary the conditions.
Between September 2008 and 2015, the respondent breached rule 32 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998 in the period up to 5 October 2011 and, from 6 October 2011, rule 29 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 in that she had failed to keep accounting records properly written up to show her dealings in respect of client account; she had failed to appropriately record her dealings with client money; current balances on ledger accounts were not always shown and were not readily ascertainable from records, and she had failed to carry out client account reconciliations.
Having been made aware of those breaches in the accountant’s reports for the period 24 September 2008 to 23 March 2013, the respondent had failed to remedy them promptly upon discovery, contrary to rule 7 of the 1998 rules in the period up to 5 October 2011 and, from 6 October 2011, rule 7 of the 2011 rules.
On or about 28 November 2014, the respondent had failed to run her business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial risk management principles, in breach of principle 8 of the SRA Principles 2011, thereby failing to achieve outcome O(7.4) of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
It was extraordinary that the respondent, a solicitor of many years, had set up a practice in 2007 without taking any steps to make sure she knew how to run a business and comply with the relevant rules and codes of conduct. While no clients had suffered as a result, damage had been done to the reputation of the profession.
The respondent had been deceived by her practice manager and had followed advice from her accountants without considering the consequences properly. She had shown genuine insight, had made open and frank admissions at an early stage, and had cooperated with the regulator and the proceedings.
Although the respondent was not fit to be in charge of a legal practice, it would be disproportionate to stop her from practising altogether.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £8,750.