Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal
Reports relating to Graham R Bryson; Andrew Livingstone Lawrie; Isabel Jayne MacLeod
Graham R Bryson
Two complaints were made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Graham R Bryson, formerly of MMFW Partnership, solicitors, Glasgow and now of Bryson’s Legal Services, Bearsden, Glasgow. The complaints were conjoined. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect that he (a) failed to carry out his obligations as cashroom partner in contravention of rule B6.13 of the Law Society of Scotland Practice Rules 2011; (b) failed to provide the relevant information, cooperation and to produce practice information in breach of rule B6.18.7; (c) as a solicitor, partner and the official money laundering reporting officer, failed to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and rule B6.23 of the Practice Rules; and (d) failed to communicate in an effective manner with his client.
The Tribunal censured the respondent and fined him £1,000.
The respondent failed to communicate effectively with his client. The Tribunal was most concerned at the respondent’s failure to notify the client of his withdrawal from acting for her. It appeared that she had not had any notice of the proof diet whatsoever. Prior to this decision, it must have been apparent to the respondent from the file that little information had been given to her. He was the one to take this decision and could only have done so having full knowledge of the file. He failed to provide her with any information to protect her interests.
Records of the firm were insufficient and did not demonstrate compliance with the accounts rules requirements. The role of cashroom partner is extremely important. Solicitors are in a privileged position in having access to client funds. It is important that at any given time it can be established that these funds are being appropriately held and dealt with. These responsibilities cannot be abdicated by the cashroom manager to a cashier. He/she must ultimately remain in charge and responsible.
The respondent failed to cooperate with the Society acting as regulator of the profession. The Society can only operate effectively in this role if solicitors provide full cooperation with any investigation/inspection. Information was sought by the Society through its Financial Compliance department for some time. The respondent’s lack of response, or appropriate response, was in the Tribunal’s view significant.
He also failed to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations. A lack of risk assessments in the cases referred to ran on for a considerable period of time. These regulations are extremely important for the protection of the public and the protection of the reputation of the profession as a whole.
No compensation was awarded to the secondary complainer in this case.
Andrew Livingstone Lawrie
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Andrew Livingstone Lawrie, c/o Lawrie Jackson, 3 Granville Street, Glasgow. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct in respect that he breached rules B1.4.1, B1.4.3, B1.9.1 and B1.9.2 of the 2011 Practice Rules. The Tribunal censured the respondent and fined him £1,000.
The respondent failed to act in the best interests of his client. As a result of his inaction, her claim was unreasonably delayed. He failed or delayed to reply to repeated communication from his client and fellow regulated persons. In order to transact business, it is essential that solicitors respond promptly and fully to inquiries from other firms. It is a solicitor’s duty to reply to all correspondence relating to a client’s affairs which calls for an answer. The respondent failed to advise his client of any significant developments. He did not do his best for the client. He delayed unreasonably in implementing a mandate despite reminders. He retained his file when it was requested by the client. The respondent’s failures in this case were a serious and reprehensible departure from the standards of a competent and reputable solicitor. Therefore, he was guilty of professional misconduct.
Isabel Jayne MacLeod
A complaint was made by the Council of the Law Society of Scotland against Isabel Jayne MacLeod, Anderson MacArthur Ltd, solicitors, Old Bank of Scotland Building, Stornoway. The Tribunal found the respondent guilty of professional misconduct. The respondent acted for parties on both sides of a conveyancing transaction. She failed to provide one of those clients with terms of business, she did not issue conflict letters to the parties and she failed to obtain instructions or advise one of the clients that she was withdrawing registration of title. She acted in a conflict of interest situation. She did not act in the best interests of one of the clients. The Tribunal censured the respondent.
At the time of taking instructions there may not have been an apparent conflict. However, conflicts frequently arise in family situations. Acting for both sides in a conveyancing transaction almost invariably will raise significant potential for conflict and that is why these transactions are regulated by rule B2 of the 2011 Practice Rules. These rules protect clients and solicitors. The Tribunal accepted that the respondent only thought of one party as her client. However, if she had paid regard to the principle that submitting an application to register or record a disposition is always done on behalf of the disponee, whoever gave the instructions, she might have avoided acting in the actual conflict situation by withdrawing registration
The respondent was a newly qualified solicitor and got caught up in an unexpected family dispute. It is unfortunate that the transaction was not subject to more careful supervision by a more senior member of the firm. If it had, this situation might not have arisen. However, ignorance of the rules does not absolve a solicitor from responsibility, and a qualified assistant has the professional responsibility of a solicitor. The respondent’s conduct clearly fell below the standards of competent and reputable solicitors to a degree that was serious and reprehensible.