A former high-profile City litigator has failed in his appeal against being struck off for using a client’s divorce settlement to fund his ventures to pursue digital dispute resolution.
Mr Guise qualified in 1986. He ran Guise Solicitors but closed it down in May 2016 to focus on his commercial ventures.
He is a former chairman of the London Solicitors Litigation Association, sat on both the Law Society’s civil litigation committee and the executive of its civil litigation section. He set up the Commercial Litigation Association (CLAN) in 2004, was its chair for several years and continued as a director.
The SDT rejected his submission that ‘Client A’ had agreed to lend him £353,000 from his divorce settlement. It said Client A essentially lost his life savings ad had been unable to rebuild his life, leaving him living in a one-bedroom flat with his wife and two young children.
Mr Guise was also found to have siphoned off £20,000 from CLAN Commercial Services, which again was used for his various companies, including eCourt and eARB.
Mr Guise appealed on multiple points but Mrs Justice Cockerill noted that several of them rested on the SDT’s determination on witness credibility.
“That is not a question of law. It is exactly the kind of issue of fact in which an appeal court will be extremely cautious about interfering,” she said.
The essence of the appeal in relation to Client A was whether there was an agreement in place between the two.
“On this, the tribunal had to weigh the live evidence of Client A, who tendered himself for cross-examination and whose evidence was thoroughly tested by Mr Guise, against the absence of any evidence from Mr Guise.
“What is more, into the side of the equation which favoured Client A’s account fell also the adverse inference against Mr Guise produced by his failure to give evidence.”
The judge said that, even without looking at the factual matrix, “it was effectively inevitable that the tribunal would find for Client A”.
That fact was “clearly signalled” to Mr Guise by the SDT rejecting his “half time submission” of no case to answer.
“In ruling that there was material on the basis of which the tribunal could find that he had breached the relevant principles, the tribunal conveyed that even before he failed to give evidence the evidence against him was prevailing.”
Cockerill J went on: “However, the inevitability of this conclusion was only bolstered by the surrounding facts, including the absence of any presentational materials, written agreement or detailed discussion and the unlikelihood of Client A wishing to invest essentially all his assets when he had a young family to provide for and was living in somewhat straitened circumstances.”
She concluded “without hesitation” that this was not a case where the SDT’s decision was one no reasonable tribunal could reach.