A sole practitioner who refused to close his firm after failing to find indemnity insurance has been struck off and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) described Anthony Alabi as having a “cavalier attitude to regulation” and “little regard for his professional duties”.
Mr Alabi, who qualified in 2002 and was principal of Advocates Solicitors in Ilford, Essex, which was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in August 2014.
He was accused of 13 offences by the SRA.
These included failing to inform the regulator when the firm entered the extended indemnity period and the cessation period, failing to carry out an “orderly and transparent wind-down of activities”, and failing to provide the SRA with the weekly updates he had promised to under a compliance plan.
Mr Alabi was also alleged to have continued to accept instructions during the cessation period and continued to practise without insurance and in breach of conditions imposed on his practising certificate for a previous offence.
The SRA further accused the sole practitioner of failing to pay compensation awarded to a former client by the Legal Ombudsman, to respond to the regulator’s communications.
Delivering judgment in SRA v Alabi (case no. 11378-2015) the SDT found that 11 of the allegations against Mr Alabi were proved beyond reasonable doubt.
One, that he had provided false and misleading information to the SRA, was rejected. Another, relating to an orderly wind-down of the firm, was upheld except for an element relating to maintaining systems and controls for monitoring financial stability.
“There was no dishonesty alleged in this case and no criminal offence had been committed. However, the respondent’s conduct was deliberate, calculated and had continued over a period of months.
“No vulnerable client had been taken advantage of, albeit the respondent had continued to act for clients in circumstances where their matters were of great personal importance to those clients when he should not have acted.
“The respondent had concealed his wrongdoing by not informing his clients that the firm had closed and in failing to co-operate fully with the applicant.
“The respondent ought to have known that acting as he did was a significant breach of his professional obligations, which obligations were in place to protect the public and the reputation of the profession.”
The SDT heard that Mr Alabi, who was not present at the hearing, described himself in an email last month as having been “besieged by misfortunes” following his mother’s death and said he was being “cared for abroad” in Nigeria.
The tribunal said it took account of Mr Alabi’s assertion that he had been suffering from poor health, but there had been no evidence of this.
Assessing his conduct as “very serious”, the tribunal said: “Despite the fact that there was no dishonesty in this case, the respondent represented a real risk to the public in the way he had conducted himself and in his cavalier attitude to regulation; indeed, the respondent had shown that he had little regard for his professional duties, including his duties to his clients.
“In these circumstances, a suspension order was not sufficient; only an order to strike off the respondent would meet the gravity of this case where there had been repeated misconduct over a period of time.”
The SDT also ordered that he pay £20,000 in costs.