A solicitor who said his unauthorised firm was acting only for “family and friends” has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
The tribunal rejected the distinction made by Olusegun Afolayan-Jejeloye between acting for family and friends and “advertising and having a website”.
The SDT went on: “The fact was that the respondent had been charging individuals for the provision of legal services and how he came to know these individuals was of no relevance to the question of whether he was authorised.”
The tribunal said the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) had emailed Mr Afolayan Jejeloye in August 2016, making it clear that he would need to apply for approval to set up a sole practice.
“This was a very clear piece of advice and instruction. The respondent clearly knew what was expected of him as he had proceeded to make such an application in January 2017.”
The SDT described Mr Afolayan-Jejeloye’s reliance on the absence of advertising as “implausible and irrelevant” and said the solicitor had “struggled in his evidence to give explanations for matters”.
He was born in 1981 and admitted in 2011. After leaving Dennings solicitors in April 2015, he “subsequently practised through an unauthorised firm, Michael James Solicitors Limited”, based in east London.
Mr Afolayan-Jejeloye changed the name of the company to Micmatt Solicitors Limited on January 2017, but continued to trade as Michael James Solicitors.
The SDT said another solicitor reported concerns about his competence and whether he was operating through a regulated firm in September 2017, following a family law hearing at Romford County Court.
An investigation by the SRA found that Mr Afolayan-Jejeloye had been practising through Michael James Solicitors since December 2016.
The solicitor first applied for authorisation in January 2017, an application he withdrew in August, and made a second one in December 2017.
The tribunal said both application forms made it clear that he could not start practising until his firm had been authorised.
Having confirmed that the information in his applications was “correct and complete” to the best of knowledge, Mr Afolayan-Jejeloye said he would like to start practising in February 2017 in his first application, and February 2018 in his second.
The SDT said the solicitor’s second application was “superseded” by an intervention into his firm.
In practising without authorisation, the SDT said he breached a long list of professional rules, and found that Mr Afolayan-Jejeloye had acted dishonestly, both in practising without authorisation and making misleading applications to the SRA.
He was struck off and ordered to pay just over £9,000 in costs.