A retired, non-practising solicitor who helped “friends and acquaintances” with legal matters but misled third parties into believing that he was still in practice has given an undertaking to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that he will not repeat his misconduct.
Geoffrey Allen Parry, 67, was also rebuked and fined £500 for conduct that included the reserved legal activity of litigation. He last held a practising certificate in 2012/13.
According to a regulatory settlement agreement published yesterday – meaning the case will not go on to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal – his company, Geoff Parry Limited (GPL), was incorporated in April 2013, before he left practice, and his wife was a co-director.
At no time was it authorised by the SRA or any other legal regulator, although Companies House records state the nature of its business as being ‘Solicitors’. GPL was dissolved via compulsory strike off in August 2015.
The agreement recorded multiple times that Mr Parry acted for clients through GPL in both contentious and non-contentious matters without making clear his status as a non-practising solicitor.
This including filing a notice of change of legal representative at court and work on an estate which he had previously been handling as a solicitor and continued after he left practice.
He would often sign letters as a ‘Solicitor’ without any qualification.
The SRA said it received “reports/complaints” about Mr Parry’s involvement in these matters from various third parties, and not those he was assisting and representing.
Mr Parry, who was made bankrupt last year, admitted to undertaking reserved legal activities, failing “to adequately clarify his status as a non-practising solicitor to third parties on several occasions”, and holding himself out “explicitly or implicitly as a solicitor practising in legal practice when he had no practising certificate”.
In mitigation, Mr Parry said he was “a pensioner who augments his pension with a three-day-a-week appointment assisting in the sports department of a local school”.
He said GPL was formed when he had been working in practice as a consultant, as a vehicle intended to minimise tax.
“Although correspondence was sent out on GPL letterheads, it never ‘traded’, in that Mr Parry states that no bills or accounts were prepared or advertising undertaken and the company was wound up in 2015.
“Since retiring from his position as a consultant solicitor, he continued to be contacted by friends and acquaintances on legal issues. [In most of the work] he was assisting and undertaking correspondence for no charge and those he was assisting knew that he had officially retired as a solicitor.”
Mr Parry said he had not intended to mislead or deceive any third parties, but accepted “in hindsight that his correspondence was not sufficiently clear”.
He thought he could act in the litigation matter as a “litigation friend” on a short-term basis until the clients arranged other representation, while he said contract work for a corporate deal was in the capacity of a “business consultant” and he had no direct involvement in the transaction itself.
In deciding that the sanction was proportionate and appropriate, the SRA noted that the conduct persisted after Mr Parry should have realised that it was “improper”, and that “the conduct misled or had the potential to mislead clients, the court or other persons, whether or not that was appreciated by the regulated person”.
He undertook to “ensure that his status as a non-practising solicitor is made clear to all parties he deals with in all relevant circumstances, unless and until he obtains a practising certificate in the future (or successfully applies for removal from the roll of solicitors)”.