A solicitor who did not honour the terms of his consultancy agreement with a law firm and sought £140 in fees directly from clients through his unregulated business has been fined £2,000 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) – nearly 15 times the money at stake.
According to a regulatory settlement agreement published yesterday, James Michael Liasis – born in 1987 and admitted in 2012 – was a consultant at north London firm Faradays Solicitors, practising through his own company, JML Law.
JML is not regulated by the SRA and not authorised to undertake reserved legal work.
Under his consultancy agreement, Mr Liasis was self-employed and was paid 50% of net profit costs received by the firm from work he undertook.
Faradays reported him to the SRA in relation to two clients where Mr Liasis had requested payments on account of costs directly to him. The first was for £40, which was meant to be transferred to his personal bank account but in the end was not.
The second was a cash payment of £100 after a meeting at Faradays’ offices. He failed to account to the firm for the money.
In an e-mail to the client, Mr Liasis explained that “the office accountant will not be in on Monday so we prefer if you could pay cash. I will provide you with a receipt of payment accordingly”. Though the money was paid, he did not produce a receipt.
The solicitor’s consultancy was terminated soon after and the £100 returned to the firm.
As part of the agreement with the SRA, Mr Liasis admitted that he breached SRA rules on both occasions, and by seeking to provide legal services via JML.
In mitigation, he pointed out that he was only 27 years old and still at the beginning of a career that had already seen him achieve higher rights of audience and police station accreditation, and that this was his first year as a consultant. Further, he has not benefitted financially from the matters and hitherto had an unblemished record.
The settlement recorded: “He accepts that his conduct giving rise to the allegations fall short of the standards expected of a solicitor. In hindsight he ought to have collaborated more closely with the partners of Faradays in relation to the question of the collection of costs, the invoicing thereafter and the timescale for accounting to Faradays for these costs.
“He deeply regrets the manner in which he handled the matters referred to and which on reflection he should have dealt with differently.”
In addition to the £2,000 fine, he agreed to pay costs of £4,500.