Solicitor who “did not know” he was a partner is rebuked

SRA: Solicitor rebuked

A solicitor who said he did not know that he had been appointed a partner and compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) of his firm has been rebuked.

Om Parkash said he only became aware of being partner and COLP at Malik Law Chambers in east London when he received correspondence from the SRA.

In a regulatory settlement agreement with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Mr Parkash admitted that once he was aware of these “entirely nominal” appointments and that he lacked “the access necessary to fulfil these roles effectively”, he broke the rules by failing to resign immediately.

The SRA said Mr Parkash, admitted in 2011, joined Malik Law Chambers as a caseworker in September 2014.

He was a partner from November 2016 to February 2018, with “apparent responsibility” for the firm’s Bethnal Green office and supervised immigration work carried out by two caseworkers. He was made the firm’s COLP in March 2017.

Mr Parkash said that when he received an email from the SRA later than month confirming that he was the firm’s COLP, ‘Person X’ – who controlled the firm – “said he did not need to do anything and that Person X would do everything”.

The solicitor said he “did not reply to the SRA as Person X said that it was not important and he was a COLP in name only”

The SRA wrote to Mr Parkash again in November 2017 and served production notices on him as COLP under section 44B of the Solicitors Act 1974.

He failed to provide the information requested and was on holiday the following month when inspection officers from the SRA visited the firm.

The SRA said Mr Parkash ceased to be a partner and COLP in February 2018 and worked on until April that year as an assistant solicitor.

The SRA said its investigation report identified “very serious concerns” about Malik Law Chambers and its owners, Person X and Person Y, and it closed down the law firm in April 2018 because there was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of the pair.

Mr Parkash said he was a salaried partner who never received client money. He said Person X controlled the firm.

Having resigned from his positions as partner and COLP, Mr Parkash said he had “no access to internal documents” and could no longer help the SRA.

He said he had “no access to anything remotely meaningful, records or correspondence, to enable the role of partner and COLP to be fulfilled” and he was not consulted before being appointed to the positions, nor did he receive a partnership agreement or any form of contract.

The SRA said its position was that Mr Parkash became aware the was the COLP of Malik Law Chambers in March 2017 and a partner in December 2017 and he “failed to relinquish these appointments”.

The regulator said: “Conduct of this nature is capable of unwittingly facilitating the carrying on, or carrying on for longer, of serious misconduct by others.”

Mr Parkash was rebuked, made subject to a condition on his PC preventing him from being a COLP or compliance officer for finance and administration, and ordered to pay costs of £750.

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