A solicitor has been struck off after trying to intimidate an officer from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) by saying he was “genius level talent” who would sue the officer and “end the SRA”.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) also found that Anjan Patel had settled a £2.3m costs claim without telling his client and baselessly accused a trustee in bankruptcy of acting fraudulently.
It found that Mr Patel “operated on a need-to-know basis as regards his clients, and considered that it was for him to determine what was in his clients’ best interests, irrespective of their instructions”.
He was at times “adversarial” with his clients, and the tone of his communications was “deliberately intimidatory, particularly when they did not agree with his position”.
The SRA had written to him for an explanation of the costs claim allegations. According to the ruling, Mr Patel, at the time a solicitor at London firm Neumans, called the regulator and threatened to sue the officer he spoke to, and promised to “end the SRA”.
He went on: “Your career was going up and now you are about to get smashed. If you don’t give me a three month extension [to respond to the letter] within 24 hours, I will tell the head of the SRA, the head of the Law Society, the Lord Chancellor and the Prime Minister.”
Mr Patel also claimed to be “a genius level talent, ultra talent” and that the officer was about to experience “global elite level litigation. I am the best litigator in the City and I have trained all the QCs”.
In a follow-up email, sent in June, the solicitor accused the officer of lying, telling him: “I’m recording my time. I’m billing you personally. You want a fictitious witch hunt? No problem. You’re going to pay for it…You will come to understand why I’m the best litigator in the City.”
The tribunal said Mr Patel had “tried to intimidate the officer” by saying that he knew he was “a young solicitor trying to make a name for himself”.
The tone, content and threatening nature of his contact with the regulator was “unacceptable and completely inappropriate”.
Mr Patel said he could not recall all of the conversation, but he “should not have said some of the things he did” and “should not have expressed himself as he did” in the emails, which were sent when he was “frustrated and angry”.
The solicitor, admitted in 1998, was a consultant at Neumans specialising in commercial litigation between April 2007 and July 2017, when the law firm was shut down by the SRA.
After that he was consultant and head of commercial litigation at London alternative business structure Cubism Law until May 2019. Cubism Law went into administration later that year.
Mr Patel denied the other allegations against him.
The SDT found that in July 2016 he settled a costs claim involving Client A without the client’s authority.
Client A and another client were to be paid £2.2m in damages plus costs. The law firm had been acting under a conditional fee agreement (CFA) and this was revised so that it would receive 65% of the amount received in both costs and damages, with the two clients splitting the rest.
Mr Patel later settled the costs of litigation at £2.3m without consulting Client A, who had specifically said he wanted to be involved in every decision relating to the costs.
The tribunal rejected Mr Patel’s interpretation that the CFA allowed Neumans to do this, saying it was “incredible”. Rather, he had acted against his client’s best interests.
Mr Patel delayed for two months before telling Client A that the costs claim had been settled, in breach of various SRA principles, and also misled a new firm of solicitors instructed by Client A by indicating that the costs claim had not been settled. This latter act was dishonest, the SDT held.
The tribunal determined that Mr Patel had put his interests, and the interests of the firm, before those of his client.
In relation to another client, Client C, the SDT said Mr Patel not only failed to comply with reasonable requests for costs information, but actively sought a way to refuse them.
After the SRA closed down Neumans, Mr Patel broke further rules by holding himself out to Client C as being “authorised” to discuss costs, when he was not – all costs recovered after an intervention vest in the SRA.
In addition, while working as a consultant for Cubism Law, he was to have found to have sent correspondence to the solicitor acting for a trustee in bankruptcy, alleging that the trustee was acting fraudulently or improperly “in the absence of evidence or proper grounds to support such an assertion” and threatening him with “reputational harm”.
The SDT said Mr Patel’s misconduct was “deliberate, calculated and repeated over a lengthy period”, and he had failed to show “any insight, foresight or hindsight”.
It was to “his credit that he had taken on matters that other solicitors had not been prepared to take and had worked hard for his clients”. He had had a previously unblemished career.
But given the serious nature of the misconduct, the SDT struck off Mr Patel and ordered him to pay £30,000 in costs.