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Inflated claims for legal costs

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has described letters sent to clients by failed Bolton law firm Asons as “disgraceful” and “self-serving”.

The tribunal made the comments in its written ruling suspending former principal Kamran Akram for 18 months and ordering him to pay costs of £115,000.

The SDT said “inflated bills” were sent out by Asons, based on “over-grading [of fee-earners] and false claims for special damages”.

The SDT heard that in April 2016 Asons paid £525,000 to settle the ‘BLM Manchester litigation’, which alleged that it had mis-represented the level of fee-earner carrying out work so as to claim an hourly rate for a higher grade.

Mr Akram was found, between late 2013 and early 2015, to have caused or permitted costs applications in personal injury claims which “systematically misrepresented” the grade of fee-earners, and which were inflated by the inclusion of fake ‘file reviews’.

In each of these allegations, Mr Akram was found to have breached the SRA Principles but not principle 2 (acting with integrity). He had not been aware of what his head of finance, who was a costs draftsman and responsible for billing, was doing, the SDT said.

Mr Akram’s conduct was further mitigated by an “element of deception” on the part of the former head of costs.

The SDT said the “only appropriate sanction” was immediate suspension, which must be long enough for Mr Akram to reflect on his behaviour. The solicitor was suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £155,000 in costs.

(Source – Legal Futures website)