Two solicitors who operated ‘chaotic’ practice are struck off
Judge said Keith Flynn and Lyndsey Clarke should be struck off to ensure the integrity of the profession
Two solicitors have been struck off the roll of solicitors over findings of professional misconduct arising from the operation of a “chaotic” practice which has left the Law Society Compensation Fund with a net deficit of €99,000,
Mr Flynn was admitted to the roll in 2006 while Ms Clarke, a former Fine Gael local election candidate in Cork, was admitted in December 2012.
The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said despite the “sadness” of making such orders against solicitors at an early stage in their careers, he endorsed the society’s view they were necessary to ensure the integrity of the solicitors’ profession.
He ordered their names be struck off the roll and they should pay costs of €8,288 to the Law Society.
Noting Mr Flynn has an ill wife and dependant children and Ms Clarke has a dependant child, he placed a 12 month stay on the costs order.
Both solicitors were suspended by High Court order in late 2016 but the Law Society sought strike off orders this week arising from findings of professional misconduct made against them by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
The society echoed the view of the disciplinary tribunal it was “lamentable” that both, so early in their profession, had “not appreciated and exercised the level of responsibility of their clients’ money entrusted to their care”.
The tribunal, in recommending strike off, had asked that a message go out emphasising the weight of that responsibility, especially on young solicitors who decided to go into practice on their own account.
David Irwin, of the society’s regulation department, said in a sworn statement there had been “lapses in standards of integrity, probity and trustworthiness” and “multiple instances, over several files, of such lapses”.
The tribunal made a number of findings of professional misconduct, including that the respondents improperly and/or dishonestly caused or allowed a minimum deficit of about €40,302 on the client account as of November 2016.
It found misconduct in that the practice ceased in late 2016 with a client account deficit of up to €80,000 concerning a named client who was not notified of the deficit in a timely manner or at all and also not told the practice was ceasing without rectifying it.
The tribunal found the respondents had on or about October 17th 2016 improperly and dishonestly caused or allowed two transfers of clients’ monies in sums of €10,085 and €16,370 respectively to reduce a deficit on the client account when the monies were not properly available to reduce the deficit.
It further found they improperly and dishonestly caused or allowed transfer of €29,000 of clients’ funds to the office account via transfers in October and November 2016.
Other findings included they ceased practice about November 21st 2016 without having made all appropriate arrangements for the wind up of that, thus showing disregard for the clients.
Neither of the respondents attended before the tribunal but they were represented by counsel who accepted on their behalf they were guilty of misconduct but urged the tribunal to decide whether they had acted dishonestly or rather had improperly allowed books of accounts to be raised.
The society told the tribunal the practice was “chaotic”. It said, due to the solicitors’ behaviour, there had been claims on the Society’s Compensation Fund which resulted in payouts of €231,999 of which €133,000 had been recovered from the practice, leaving a shortfall of almost €99,000. There may be further claims on the fund, it was stated.