Barrister who tried to double £500 fee with fake invoice disbarred

Witness statement: Barrister tried to blame chambers

A barrister who tried to claim double the £500 fee he had agreed with his solicitor by providing the court with a fake fee note has been disbarred.

A Bar disciplinary tribunal said Julian Boyd Orr, called in 1995, was lying in a witness statement when he blamed the pandemic and his chambers for the misconduct.

The tribunal said that “for this level of dishonesty, done for financial gain (however modest), and persisted in for about nine months, there is only one appropriate punishment”.

Mr Orr was instructed to represent a claimant in a consumer credit action brought against a bank, alleging the mis-selling of solar panels.

A case management conference (CMC) was held on 20 July 2020, ahead of which Mr Orr generated two fee notes, each for £500 plus VAT. One was for the CMC, the other – which was not the subject of the disciplinary action – for an application that was to be made.

“The fee notes were unusual in that they were not issued on chambers’ behalf or on chambers’ paper. Instead, they were issued by a consultancy company that Mr Orr controlled called ‘Leewood Consulting Limited’.

“It appears that his chambers were unaware of the existence of these fee notes, and we do not know why they assumed the form that they did.”

The case settled shortly afterwards and the defendants were ordered to pay the claimant’s costs. The claimant’s solicitors “forwarded vouchers” in support of those costs in November 2020, including a Leewood fee note for Mr Orr’s appearance at the CMC.

“Now, the amount claimed was no longer £500 but £1,000. This, on the admission of Mr Orr, was a false fee note. It was issued by him on 4 October 2020 for no valid reason that we can discern, nor have we been given any by Mr Orr.”

The tribunal said it was “sure” that this was “in fact a dishonest attempt by him to gain an excess payment from the defendant in the action of £500 to which he was not entitled”.

The false fee note was “robustly and rightly challenged” by the defendants’ solicitors, Eversheds Sutherland.

The barrister then instructed his clerks to issue a fee note on chambers paper in respect of the CMC, though the sum claimed “wrongly remained £1,000”.

On detailed assessment, the barrister was ordered to produce a witness statement in which, the tribunal said, Mr Orr was “lying” in blaming the pandemic for the issue of the £500 fee note by his consultancy company – his clerks room “remained fully functional at all relevant times”.

Mr Orr went on to blame his chambers for billing the hearing at £1,000 “when they were blameless, he was entirely responsible for the increased fee, and he had issued his inflated fee note two months before his chambers were involved at all”.

The tribunal said: “Immediately prior to the costs hearing, the claims for costs were abandoned. They had to be. They were dishonestly made and obviously so.”

Mr Orr admitted all 11 charges, which included creating a false fee note, making untrue statements in a signed witness statement and misleading or attempting to mislead the court in doing so.

In the absence of exceptional circumstances, he was disbarred and ordered to pay £2,400 in costs.

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