An inexperienced barrister who feared seeking the court’s approval to deduct success fees from damages in infant settlement cases – but told his employers he had applied for them – has been reprimanded.
A Bar disciplinary tribunal said Jasraj Singh Sanghera’s conduct was “caused by naivety and a lack of confidence” and that it would not impose the usual sanction of disbarment for cases of dishonesty.
At the time in 2020, Mr Sanghera had only been called for a few months and was working for LPC Law, which provides advocates as agents for law firms across the country.
Many of the advocates it uses for hearings in chambers have passed the Bar training course and, like Mr Sanghera at this point, not begun pupillage. The instructing solicitors were also not in court with him.
Mr Sanghera admitted that, “on at least a couple of occasions”, he misled those who instructed him by saying in attendance notes that he had asked the court to approve their success fee deductions and that those applications had been refused, when in fact he had not made them.
The tribunal said that it was “to his credit that from the outset he disclosed to professional colleagues what he had done, and he explained why”.
It went on: “He said that he had experienced judges disapproving of and criticising the practice of solicitors seeking the deduction of success fees from agreed damages payable to children and he had experienced judges refusing such applications to the extent that on occasion, Mr Sanghera… felt intimidated and inhibited.
“In those circumstances, he had not pursued the applications for success fees, believing that they were likely to be refused.”
The panel said that Mr Sanghera had “lacked experience or guidance and probably lacked the confidence to make unpopular applications, particularly if he felt they were likely to fail”. It noted too that his failure “only deprived the solicitors the chance of obtaining such fees rather than any certainty of doing so”.
There was no suggestion of “any repetition of such misconduct or anything like it” since June 2020. He now practises in London as a barrister.
The panel concluded that his conduct was “caused by naivety and a lack of confidence on his part at the relevant time”.
It said: “The panel also find that Mr Sanghera, who has been contrite as well as candid, has taken full responsibility for what he did now some three years ago. He sees it for the error of judgment it clearly was, something that would have been avoided by a more experienced practitioner.”
The tribunal decided that there were exceptional circumstances and that disbarment would not be necessary. These included his admissions before any complaint was made, “the absence of experience or training or supervision” and the low level of harm caused.
The delay in the case reaching the tribunal and “the progress he has made in the intervening period” were also factors. Testimonials showed him to be “a competent and well-regarded member of the profession”.
The tribunal added that it was not necessary to impose disbarment to maintain public trust and confidence in the profession.
“The BSB properly conceded that the misconduct in this case was likely to have very limited impact on the public’s view of the profession. It is not necessary to address in this case any appreciable risk to the public.”
It said a reprimand would suffice and also ordered Mr Sanghera to pay costs of £2,670.