Five solicitors, a solicitor apprentice and a legal assistant who worked at one of the largest law firms to be shut down by the regulator have been awarded more than £37,000 by an employment tribunal.
Kingly Solicitors was a 16-office law firm consolidator was closed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority on 12 August 2020, putting 180 staff out of work and leaving creditors owed £17m.
The intervention was based on the firm not complying with one or more of the terms of its alternative business structure licence, and because there was “reason to suspect dishonesty” by Nurul Miah as a manager of the firm.
Kingly Solicitors, which changed its name last year from RH Legal, traded under several different names around the country: Richard Herne & Co, Hancock Quins, Austin Ray, Ray Nixon Brown, Beesons, Coles, Hughmans, and Giffen Couch & Archer.
As a result of the intervention, staff received no warning, consultation or notice of redundancy.
Employment Judge Newburn in Newcastle heard claims from eight employees of Coles together. They claimed for redundancy, breach of contract – over notice pay, holiday pay and unpaid expenses – unauthorised deductions from the wages and unfair dismissal.
Seven of the claims succeeded, with damages exceeding £37,000 between them. The eighth claim was dismissed because the claimant had not engaged with the process and did not attend the hearing.
The single largest award was for a solicitor whose £19,100 award included £12,600 for an unpaid bonus.
Under his contract, he was entitled to 10% on all bills he had submitted for the period April 2020 to 12 August 2020 that were in excess of his annual billing target of £128,000 (3.2 times his salary of £40,000).
In each of the successful cases, Judge Newburn found the dismissal procedurally unfair, but the basic award was extinguished by the statutory redundancy payment received from the Redundancy Payments Service.
The judge added: “If the respondent had followed a fair redundancy procedure, the claimant would still have been dismissed by reason of redundancy on 12 August 2020, as this was the date that the respondent’s offices were all immediately closed further to an intervention by the SRA.
“Accordingly, the claimant’s compensatory award for unfair dismissal is reduced by 100% pursuant to Polkey.”