'Dishonest' solicitor struck off for misleading client
PUBLISHED: 10:17 14 December 2018 | UPDATED: 19:10 16 December 2018
A solicitor has been barred after misleading a client and blaming her when his firm was taken to court.
Richard Clegg, director of GMS Law in Thorpe St Andrew, was struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal at a hearing at the end of November.
He was also ordered to pay £12,000 in costs, according to the decision which has now been published.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which regulates the industry, accused Mr Clegg of misleading his client from February 2015 to March 2016.
Mr Clegg’s problems began when he hired an expert witness, referred to as Professor JW, to support his client in a medical negligence case in court.
The case was settled before the court hearing, however, meaning the Professor was not needed.
But he was not told that by GMS Law until later, meaning they still had to pay him his fee.
The Professor then sent the firm an invoice for £10,500 in 2015 but that was not paid.
Professor JW then took the firm to court and in 2016 the court awarded him damages of £9,400.
In defence in that case, Mr Clegg claimed that his client, not his firm, should be paying.
But he did not tell her about the case until later or tell her he was defending it by saying she was responsible.
He also continued acting for her which was a “glaringly obvious” conflict of interest, the tribunal found.
Mr Clegg “failed to treat his client fairly,” the SRA which prosecuted Mr Clegg said.
Mr Clegg also told his client he defended the claim by the Professor on her behalf, which was not true.
In response, Mr Clegg admitted breaching the SRA principles but said the conflict of interest was “theoretical rather than real”.
He said the Professor’s claim for fees was “unreasonable, wrong and bordering on dishonest”.
Mr Clegg’s solicitor, Justin Meiland, told the tribunal the misleading of the client had been “entirely inadvertent”.
The tribunal found Mr Clegg was trying to protect the reputation of his firm, but his conduct had caused harm to the reputation of the profession and his dishonesty was “deliberate” and “repeated”.
GMS Law, which was based on Yarmouth Road and specialised in no-win no-fee cases, closed in May.
Mr Clegg’s predecessor at GMS Law, Godfrey Morgan, was barred from the legal profession in 2012 by being ordered to remove himself from the Roll of Solicitors and not reapply for at least six years.