SDT strikes off solicitor for falsely claiming to work at former firm


SDT: solicitor tried to conceal letters

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has struck off a senior solicitor for dishonestly holding himself out as working for his former firm and falsely stating that he had sent out fewer letters on the firm’s notepaper than he knew to be the case.

At a hearing earlier this month, the tribunal heard that Stuart Michael Stones, a former partner at Manchester firm Ratio Law LLP, had dishonestly claimed to be working for a former client on behalf of the firm when he had left some three months earlier.

Mr Stones, who specialised in renewable energy projects, was born in 1967 and was admitted in 2002. He had worked at the firm between January 2010 and January 2015.

He neither attended the hearing nor was represented.

In April, May, and June 2015 he sent letters of comfort to companies without authority in order to induce them to enter into contracts.

Further, since he was not a recognised sole practitioner or employed as a solicitor, he was not entitled to practise as a solicitor. He also lacked indemnity insurance, in breach of the rules.

The tribunal recorded that when the firm became aware of the existence of two of the letters, it appointed a solicitor to act in the matter. Mr Stones acknowledged the two letters, but did not mention that he had sent a further three.

Writing to the Solicitors Regulation Authority in June 2016, Mr Stones had claimed he understood he would continue to act in relation to former clients on a consultancy basis.

He wrote: “Equally, as a founding partner to the firm it was always my intention that I would continue to work closely with Ratio Law and any new legal instructions that could be passed (including work which I could personally undertake) would also continue.”

Ratio Law firmly denied this was the case and the tribunal accepted its submission.

Finding the solicitor to have dishonestly breached professional rules in each of the four allegations against him, the tribunal said: “His motivation had been to encourage third parties to deal with him by creating a false impression…

On the claim that only two letters had been sent, it said: “[He] had been trying to minimise and conceal the extent of his wrongdoing by limiting it to the only two letters that had come to light at that stage. The untrue statements were therefore deliberate and had a purpose.”

His culpability was “high” and while the misconduct had not resulted in monetary loss “the harm to the reputation of the profession was very high”.

It added: “The public would not expect a solicitor to send letters using the letterhead of a firm to which they had no connection containing statements which were untrue and misleading.

“This was compounded by the fact that when challenged about them, the respondent again wrote a misleading and untrue letter in response.”

Identifying no mitigating factors, the tribunal said: “The misconduct was deliberate, repeated and continued over a period of time, albeit a small number of months. He had tried to conceal his wrongdoing by committing further misconduct.”

The tribunal ordered the solicitor to pay costs of £7,487.

Tags:




Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Reports

Our latest special report, produced in association with Temple Legal Protection, looks at the role of after-the-event (ATE) insurance in commercial litigation post-LASPO. We are at a time when insurers, solicitors, clients and litigation funders work ever more closely to create funding packages that work for all of them, with conditional fee and even damages-based agreements now part of many law firms’ armoury.

Blog

16 October 2019

The new SRA accounts rules – a checklist for compliant software

There are a number of changes to the accounts rules from 25 November, which law firm managers and compliance officers will need to take into account in order for their firms not to be in breach.

Read More

Loading animation