High Court rejects solicitor-turned-barrister’s disbarment appeal

Thornton: Lawyers faced continuing duty 

A solicitor turned barrister, disbarred for dishonesty relating to earlier disciplinary action taken against him by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has failed in his appeal to the High Court.

Mrs Justice Thornton said Zeeshan Mian’s misconduct as a barrister related to his failure to inform Lincoln’s Inn or the Bar Standards Board (BSB) that he was the subject of investigation and disciplinary action by the SRA and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

The SDT fined Mr Mian £20,000 in February 2020 and imposed conditions on his practicing certificate (PC) preventing him from being a law firm owner for two years.

He had displayed “manifest incompetence” in employing a disbarred barrister as a consultant at his law firm without checking his identity or record.

Thornton J said Mr Mian was admitted as a solicitor in 2007, becoming director of Denning Solicitors in East London. The SRA told him in December 2015 that it was starting an investigation.

Thornton J said Mr Mian applied to transfer to the Bar in February 2016, providing a certificate of good standing from the SRA issued before it had begun the investigation.

On 7 April 2016, the SRA informed Mr Mian that it was considering imposing conditions on his PC. Eight days later the BSB approved his application for transfer to the Bar.

The following month, Mr Mian signed two declarations, the first regarding admission to Lincoln’s Inn, the second in relation to his call to the Bar.

The SRA told him it was going ahead with imposing conditions on his PC in September 2016. He appealed, but the decision was confirmed in early November. Later that month, Mr Mian was called to the Bar.

From March to May 2017, he practised as an employed barrister before registering for a third six pupillage. He was referred to the SDT by the SRA in March 2018.

Mr Mian was disbarred by a Bar disciplinary tribunal in June 2022 after 12 charges of misconduct were found proved against him, including findings of dishonesty in relation to three of them. By a majority of three to two, the panel decided he should be disbarred.

Thornton J said that, towards the end of the hearing, Mr Mian, representing himself, conceded that his failure to inform the BSB about his referral to the SDT was misconduct, but that it was “careless rather than dishonest”.

The judge said the Bar tribunal could not “be said to be wrong in finding that the forms imposed a continuing duty on the appellant to inform Lincoln’s Inn of any change in circumstances up to the time of his call to the Bar in November 2016”.

Mr Mian continued to “strenuously deny” the allegations of dishonesty, arguing that “the SRA investigation and conditions imposed on his practicing certificate, were not relevant to his call to the Bar and he did not believe them to be so”.

Thornton J said the Bar tribunal provided reasons for its finding that he knew “perfectly well” that he should have informed Lincoln’s Inn and the BSB about the SRA’s actions.

“They include that the appellant is not uneducated; he has 10 years experience as a solicitor; he was aware of what the SRA was investigating; and any depression he was experiencing did not mean he was unable to make relevant judgments.

“These findings were arrived at after hearing evidence from the appellant and they are not, in my view, an assessment that the court should interfere with lightly.”

Mr Mian argued that the tribunal had “indeed fallen into error” in its application of the Ivey test for dishonesty.

“On behalf of the BSB it was said that whilst there is some ambiguity in the ruling, the tribunal properly directed itself on the law and its reasoning can be properly inferred.”

Thornton J said that “notwithstanding some ambiguity in the judgment, the test in Ivey is set out correctly”.

She upheld the findings of professional misconduct and the sanction imposed by the Bar tribunal and dismissed Mr Mian’s appeal.

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