Solicitors – honesty, truthfulness & integrity

It has often been pointed out in Regulation matters that the essential qualities of a Solicitor are honesty, truthfulness and integrity.  The appropriate standards of conduct require to be maintained if the general public is to have confidence in the legal profession.

The Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal in the Complaint at the instance of The Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Norman Banski (www.ssdt.org.uk 2 October 2018) found that the Respondent’s conduct was such that he had not met the appropriate standards.

The often quoted test is set out in Sharp v The Law Society of Scotland 1984 SLT 313. It is to the effect that there are certain standards of conduct to be expected of competent and reputable solicitors. A departure from these standards which would be regarded by competent and reputable solicitors as serious and reprehensible, can be said to be professional misconduct.

The Respondent’s conduct included taking fees from several clients described as “far in excess” of those to which he was entitled and indeed the Tribunal said there had been “outrageous overcharging”.  In one matter alone, the fees taken had been an overcharge of around £116,000.

The Respondent was also found guilty of various breaches of the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules which included failing to keep the practice records to properly show dealings with clients’ money and failure to maintain his firm’s books so as to show the true financial position of the firm.

The view of the Tribunal was that the professional misconduct was so serious that it merited the Respondent’s name being struck off the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland.  There had been a course of conduct over a five year period involving several clients.  He was guilty of dishonesty.

The ultimate “sentence” in any Complaint is a matter for the Tribunal’s discretion. Given the circumstances here, it is hardly surprising that even taking into account what was said in mitigation, the Tribunal decided that the option of striking the Respondent from the Roll was the appropriate one.

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