A trainee solicitor who misled clients that their claims were being progressed when they had actually been struck out, and also sought to mislead the court, has accepted a rebuke and £1,000 fine to avoid a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
Jack Patrick Walker, a former trainee at Cogent Law, part of the Parabis group, also admitted that he was dishonest.
According to a regulatory settlement agreement published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Mr Walker worked in the litigation department for eight months before he was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct after his conduct was uncovered in relation to 10 cases.
It was found that he misled clients and the firm that claims were being progressed when he knew they had been struck out; failed to inform his clients of offers to settle their claims; did not attend court hearings on his client’s behalf which led to claims being struck out; did not comply with court orders and directions and failed to file relevant court documents within stipulated timeframes; and misled the court by preparing a statement in support of an application for reinstatement of a claim on the grounds that a court document had not been received, when in fact it had.
Further, Mr Walker failed to inform the firm and his team leader of any of these problems and he actually deleted incoming documents from the case management system.
In mitigation, Mr Walker told the SRA that though he felt he did not possess the necessary skills to carry out the work which was required of him, due to staff changes he was unable to seek assistance.
He also apologised for his failings and accepted that his work and conduct fell below the standards expected of a regulated person.
As well as the rebuke and fine, the SRA has imposed a section 43 order on him, meaning that he cannot work for a law firm without the regulator’s permission.
The agreement recorded its view that though “the conduct was deliberate and reckless and misled clients, the court and others”, the agreed outcome was “proportionate and in the public interest”.
As Mr Walker is not qualified, the tribunal could have imposed a greater fine – the SRA’s fining power is limited to £2,000 – but other could not have done more than impose a section 43 order itself.
Meanwhile, the SRA has also rebuked and imposed a section 43 order on Nadim Iqbal, who was a paralegal in the personal injury department of Preston firm Dylan Nair Solicitors for three and a half years.
While there, Mr Iqbal was found to have created false documents and submitted these to inflate insurance claims. He also deducted more than £60,000 from client account on a number of different occasions without his clients’ consent.
The SRA reported that he has pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud and is due to be sentenced.