Solicitor who lied about working for firm struck off

SDT: Serious harm to the profession’s reputation

A solicitor who dishonestly misled his client, the court and opposing solicitors into thinking he was working at a law firm, when he was not, has been struck off.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said that, as a result of Lawson Akhigbe’s actions, his client had faced a costs order for nearly £7,700 which she had not expected and he had done nothing to prevent.

“His client had relied upon him and trusted him to do what he said he would do for her. He had not only let her down he had also left her exposed to pay a costs order in a significant sum.

“Mrs Sanni had had none of the safeguards in place that she may have expected had he actually been employed by a firm. i.e., insurance and a proper complaints policy which she could have followed.”

The SDT found that Mr Akhigbe, who qualified in 2007, had co-founded South-East London firm Kingsville Law in 2016 and was later a consultant. But by the time of the events at issue, September 2018 to April 2019, he was not involved in the firm.

Nonetheless, he gave the impression to Mrs Sanni, as well as GT Stewart Solicitors on the other side, and Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court that Kingsville Law was representing her in bringing possession proceedings when it was not.

This meant that he was practising in breach of the SRA Practice Framework Rules.

Mr Akhigbe was also found to have accepted £250 – which he demanded in cash when meeting his client at King’s Cross train station in London – to handle the unexpected costs demand and then done nothing to progress it.

Mr Akhigbe had argued that he had acted in his capacity as a consultant to Kingsville Law.

He said he believed that the possession proceedings had been dealt with by a consent order, which he had sent to the parties. Thereafter, he said, he suffered with ill health which had prevented him from dealing with the case and from registering the case with Kingsville Law.

“The tribunal found that this explanation did not bear scrutiny when contrasted with the evidence from Mrs and Mr Sanni, and [the principal solicitor at Kingsville], upon which the tribunal placed much weight,” the ruling said.

“Mrs Sanni had believed that the respondent had been a solicitor at Kingsville Law, and she had been persuaded of this by false representations made to her by the respondent backed up with letters sent by him to her purportedly bearing the style, address and SRA number of Kingsville Law.”

The SDT said that, if Mr Akhigbe had been “a bona fide representative” of Kingsville Law, “it would not have been an unreasonable expectation to suppose that he would have paid any money for fees into the firm’s office or client bank account”.

Instead, he received £600 at the start of the matter into his personal bank account and did not account for it to the firm or ensure that a file was opened.

The SDT concluded that Mr Akhigbe was dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people.

He was motivated by “personal and financial self-interest to obtain an income stream for himself”, and to act for Mrs Sanni when she was not protected by the benefit of insurance was “seriously discreditable behaviour on his part”.

Mr Akhigbe had caused “serious harm to the reputation of the solicitor’s profession by his extremely poor conduct, which had been a significant departure from the complete integrity, probity and trustworthiness expected of a solicitor”.

Though he had said he was ill at various points, the tribunal said there was no evidence to suggest that poor health had in any way prevented him from knowing that his conduct had been dishonest.

The SDT struck Mr Akhigbe off and ordered him to pay the SRA costs of £20,000.

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