SRA fines Irwin Mitchell for way it switched clients to CFAs

Irwin Mitchell: Court of Appeal criticism

Irwin Mitchell has been fined £9,000 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for failing to give proper advice to clients in 2013 before switching the funding of their cases from legal aid to a conditional fee agreement (CFA).

In a notice published yesterday, the SRA said the national law firm failed to act in the best interests of clients or to provide a proper standard of service to clients.

It also failed to achieve outcome 1.12 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, requiring the firm to ensure that clients are in a position to make informed decisions about the options available to them.

In addition to the fine, it was ordered to pay costs of £1,350.

An Irwin Mitchell spokesman said: “These matters occurred during a short period in 2013 when the SRA itself notes that there was considerable confusion in the run up to the LASPO law reforms as to how legal aid and other funding would operate. We’ve since taken steps to rectify issues arising from the switch decisions.”

The firm came under fire in Surrey v Barnet And Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust [2018] EWCA Civ 451, three conjoined clinical negligence cases. The Court of Appeal held that Irwin Mitchell did not act reasonably in switching its clients from legal aid to CFAs ahead of the introduction of LASPO.

Lord Justice Lewison said: “The bottom line is that in each of the three cases the advice given to the client had exaggerated (and in two cases misrepresented) the disadvantages of remaining with legal aid funding; and had omitted entirely any mention of the certain disadvantage of entering into a CFA.

“Moreover, one of the advantages of entering into the CFA was Irwin Mitchell’s own prospective entitlement to a substantial success fee.

“In those circumstances, I consider that DJ Besford [in one of the three cases] was correct in saying: ‘Where one of two or more options available to a client is more financially beneficial to the solicitor, the need for transparency becomes ever greater.’”

NHS Resolution said at the time that the decision to overturn the judgment of Mr Justice Foskett saved it £270,000 in the three cases before the court and potentially millions more in other cases where clients were switched.

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.


Should we rethink the ‘standard’ work week?

If you’re in Camp Never-Stops, you may view your daily grind as a badge of honour. But from the outside looking in, I see an engine pushed hard and showing signs of failure.

Why a digital-first mindset is crucial for successful hybrid working

A report from the Chartered Management Institute found that over 80% of managers said their businesses had adopted hybrid working. This is certainly reflective of the legal sector.

Is your law firm protected from ransomware attacks?

Ransomware attacks can have devastating consequences for law firms, including financial losses and reputational damage – and it’s not just the large firms that are being targeted.

Loading animation