An SRA complaint against ME?

sra-logoI am neither a solicitor nor a barrister.  I have never been, or claimed to be, either.

This morning, I received notice of a complaint made against me to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Philip Kerr

Somebody had complained that I had once claimed to be a solicitor.  The evidence against me offered was the T2 complaint form that I had submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) on 14th June 2015, which was signed not by me, but by my then client, Mr Philip Kerr, whose Philip Kerr -v- MI5 blog is here.  My details were entered on page 1 of the T2 as Mr Kerr’s “solicitor or adviser”.  I was indeed advising Mr Kerr in those days, and he had asked me to be his representative in the correspondence with the IPT.  He was allowed to be represented in the IPT other than by a solicitor.  That is perfectly normal.

The email this morning, notifying me of the complaint and of the SRA’s decision not to pursue it any further, read as follows.

Our ref: CDT/1245013-2018

Dear Mr Allman,

We have received a report in connection with a complaint by Mr Philip Kerr against MI5. It is stated you have claimed to be a solicitor.

My attention has been drawn to an Investigatory Powers Tribunal Complaint Form, containing your details. I consider the issue lies in the form itself. It requests the “solicitor or adviser” complete a section, then requires the “Surname of solicitor-advocate”. As your details appear in this section, the complainant considers you have claimed to be a solicitor when you are not.

Section 20 of the Solicitors Act 1974 sets out that (1) no unqualified person is to act as a solicitor, and (2) any person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for not more than 2 years or to a fine, or both. Section 1 of the same act sets out the requirements to act as a solicitor.

I will not be taking any further action on this occasion, save for drawing your attention to the relevant legislation above.

Yours sincerely,

[Individual’s name redacted]

Investigation Officer

Investigation and Supervision
Solicitors Regulation Authority
0121 329 6177

www.sra.org.uk

As you can see, the SRA has kindly noted that the T2 form is badly designed, in that the field into which the surname of the “solicitor or adviser” is to be entered, is misleadingly labelled “Surname of solicitor-advocate”.  Not only am I not a solicitor-advocate, nor are the majority of solicitors!  The field ought to have been labelled (at most) “Surname of solicitor/advocate”, and preferably “Surname of solicitor or legal adviser”.

I was Mr Kerr’s representative in the IPT.  That was permitted.  I did not advocate for Mr Kerr at his oral hearing though.  For that role, we instructed Mr Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, who actually is a solicitor-advocate.  Tim had played the senior role in Mr Kerr’s legal team ever since (much, much earlier) I had head-hunted him and introduced him to Philip, who brought him on-board.  I reported to our mutual client, Mr Kerr, and liaised with Tim and helped Philip to instruct him.  The timeline of the litigation we brought is here.

I no longer work for profit as any kind of lawyer.  I have never been a member of any of the regulated legal professions or pretended to be.  My published CV documents my role at the time when I was representing Mr Kerr in the IPT as follows:

1 June 2010 – 18 November 2016

Self-employed or working pro bono [as a] Freelance paralegal

This work involved me in both of the following roles:

(1) assisting minor clients of my own who were litigants in person, as their only legal help,

(2) working as part of a team that included myself and two barristers and two solicitors, all assisting one particular common client of ours, all accountable to that client separately and directly, whilst liaising with one another as required.

I have to say I had not noticed the error in the form until today.  Somebody has obviously done a lot of work trying to catch me in some wrongdoing.  Perhaps this explains why visitors to my blog recently have been doing rather more exploring recently.

I am publishing this information promptly in the hope of discouraging my “enemies” (their choice) from making any further spurious complaints of the same nature.  I would refer the particular enemy who reported me to the SRA to the much-celebrated and elegantly concise dicta to be found in the pre-action correspondence in Arkell v Pressdram [1971] (unreported).

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21 Comments

Filed under Law, Righteousness, Targeted

21 responses to “An SRA complaint against ME?

  1. aalancraig

    Sounds like you are having fun…

    Alan

  2. LucyP

    You need to think about your terminology carefully. You should amend or delete your comments. You are giving the SRA more fuel.

    You call Mr Kerr a “mutual client”. That implies that you are offering legal services. It implies that you are charging money for those services.

    I am sure that you will say that you were not, and did not, but you should be careful. They have given you a warning this time. Don’t give them any reason to investigate you further.

    • I wasn’t merely offering legal services. I was actually performing legal services. But please don’t worry. I wasn’t offering or performing any legal services that it would have been unlawful for me to offer or to perform, because I wasn’t a solicitor.

      There are an awful lot of people who simply cannot afford to pay what solicitors charge and an awful lot of non-solicitors serving this market. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau offers a good service, for example. However, I was approached by Philip Kerr’s solicitor to add value to the service he was providing, not because I was a cheap resource, but because it was felt I could add value because of a recommendation received. I never reported to any solicitor or barrister. I reported to Philip vertically and liaised horizontally with other team members. I believe I did add value.

      The DWP was aware of what I was doing. So were the various courts and tribunals when they had a need to know. I accounted for my earnings. All legal, open and above board.

      Thank you for your concern all the same.

      • Ruth

        It’s all very well you saying that you and people like you service a market of those who can’t pay for a solicitor, but there’s a reason solicitors are expensive. Are you insured, for example? What protection does the “client” have if your advice is wrong? Do you have access to up to date legal resources? You’re under qualified – you have an out of date qualification, no requirement to keep your knowledge up to date with CPD training and you have no qualification in legal practice. Frankly, your “clients” would be better off on their own.

        • Actually, you are speaking apparently without knowledge or understanding of what services I used to provide, to what sort of clients, although that information is in my post.

          It isn’t feasible to use the sledgehammer of a solicitor, to crack every nut. If a client needed that level of service and could pay for it, he’d never go to a voluntary group, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the neighbour’s son or daughter studying law at university, or any of the countless other examples of affordable legal help. The protection the client has against wrong advice, is the knowledge that the advice may be wrong, and that he is therefore responsible for his own decisions.

          I wasn’t under-qualified, because I didn’t attempt to do anything that I was not qualified to do. I wasn’t in legal practice. My clients were on their own. I shared their burdens. I didn’t take over from them and conduct their litigation for them. That’ what solicitors usually do. I helped them to do it themselves. The exception to that was when in the case of Mr Kerr. He has a solicitor, who wrote to me asking me to help. I head-hunted Tim and helped Philip instruct him. A barrister kept an eye on the whole process. The only part of which I did the lion’s share of the work was in preparing the evidence for the IPT, as reported here:
          https://johnallmanuk.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/evidence-submitted-to-the-ipt-in-philip-kerr-v-mi5-organised-stalking-claim/ (q.v.).

          Funnily enough, there have been many discussions about this topic, and every point you have made has been made in them dozens of times. There was, for example, an article only today in Law Gazette that sparked a discussion of this matter. See:
          https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/parents-breach-court-order-after-advice-from-mckenzie-friend/5067868.article
          and scroll down to the comments.

          • Ruth

            Your point about voluntary organisations is a bad one. The CAB and Law Centres are insured, are properly supervised by qualified people and have legal resources. The fact that my points have been made before doesn’t make them bad – quite the opposite. There is a real danger with amateurs providing advice without any liability for being wrong. Are you really saying if you’d screwed up Philip Kerr’s evidence he wouldn’t have been able to sue you because he was “on his own”? If, as you say, you were doing nothing more than grunt work as a paralegal, why described yourself as a “legal adviser”, which by definition must meant you give legal advice.

            • You would be welcome to discuss the generic issue that you are trying to make personal, your wishing to contrive a reason to be critical of me, in ignorance of details that is necessary for reasons of client confidentiality. But you must do that on any of the relevant discussion threads on which the generic issue it is being discussed, such as the Law Gazette thread to which I posted a link yesterday.

              The discussion you are trying to have with me here is not one in which it would be possible for me to defend myself against your negative innuendos, without imparting publicly more information than I am obliged to impart, or allowed to import, which is also more information that you are entitled to receive.,

  3. Ruth

    If you aren’t a solicitor or barrister, you don’t have any duties of confidentiality. Yet another risk to your “clients” of taking advice from an unqualified legal adviser”. They won’t benefit from legal professional privilege and all your correspondence with them is disclosable.

    • I do not have the duty of confidentiality of a solicitor or barrister, but that did not preclude me from assuming such a duty by contract with my client, like (for example) a health professional, or indeed the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

      You are actually hung up on this word “advice”.

      In practice, none of the correspondence is disclosable anyway, because none of it is relevant. It’s not as though there are emails in which the client says, “Paragraph 13 of my witness statement is a lie, but I intend to include it anyway.” That would portend the end of our relationship, just as it would if I were a solicitor.

      If the client issues a claim using the fifth and final draft of his Particulars of Claim, then earlier drafts emailed backwards and forwards are of no interest in disclosure. They don’t need professional legal privilege (which they might have anyway – it’s a grey area). They are non-disclosable by reason of their irrelevance. Disclosure applies to *evidence* of relevant *facts*, not strategy discussions.

      • Ruth

        Drafts of pleadings and witness statements *are* in fact relevant and disclosable, so you’ve got that wrong. No matter what way you try to spin it, there are two possibilities here. Either you were not giving any legal help or assistance, and we’re doing nothing more than acting as a secretary. If that’s the case, you’re wrong to describe yourself as a legal adviser. Or, you were giving legal advice (by which I mean you were helping people by explaining legal concepts to them in the context of their own circumstances). If that’s right, you were doing so with a legal qualification over 20 years out of date, without having had to keep up to date with CPD points. In other words, you were dangerously unqualified. Which is it? Are you misleading people, or are you advising them while unqualified to do so? And don’t hide behind legal privilege. You don’t have to disclose the content of the advice, just it’s existence. Even if legal privilege applied to unqualified advisers (which it doesn’t, there’s no grey area), it wouldn’t prevent you answering my question.

        • “you’re wrong to describe yourself as a legal adviser”

          As far as I know, I never have described myself as a legal adviser.

          I was not advertising my services at all, describing myself as anything, when one solicitor emailed me out of the blue because he had sought particular skills for his client and had a recommendation of me. He asked me to help his client. I don’t think he’d have done that if what he was asking me to do was illegal. Nor would a top criminal barrister have had dinner with me and the client, and discussed the client’s legal options around the table. (He was a barrister of top alleged criminals, rather than necessarily a top barrister of criminals.)

          “you were giving legal advice (by which I mean you were helping people by explaining legal concepts to them in the context of their own circumstances)”

          It strikes me that explaining legal concepts to me in the context of my own circumstances is precisely what you are trying to do. You’re not a solicitor who has sent me a client care letter and is covered by insurance, are you? Perhaps I should report you to the SRA.

          “Even if legal privilege applied to unqualified advisers (which it doesn’t, there’s no grey area), it wouldn’t prevent you answering my question.”

          What stops me from answering your question, is that it is a bullying, trick question. My father taught me about those, that when I was about ten, using the sample question, “Have you stopped beating your wife? A simple yes or no, please!”

          There is a grey area. See the 2016 consultation of the Lord Chief Justice, in which I believe I participated (if I remember correctly).

          Reforming the courts’ approach to McKenzie Friends
          https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/mf-consultation-paper-feb2016-1.pdf

          Para 3.7 is helpful, provided you read the WHOLE paragraph, rather than cherry-pick the phrases that seem to support your own extreme position. It was this paragraph I had in mind when I used the expression “grey area”.

          In the event, in the light of the response to the consultation, the LCJ decided not to make any reforms after all.

          • Ruth

            Paragraph 3.7 reads:
            3.7 The two studies highlight perceived advantages of any increased use of McKenzie Friends (fee-paid or otherwise) e.g., increased access to justice for LiPs, greater equality of arms, greater consumer choice. They also outline risks posed by any increase in use e.g., a lack of consumer protection by reason of a lack of effective regulation; agenda-driven McKenzie Friends; the provision of poor quality advice to litigants; a lack of insurance cover; the possibility of overcharging litigants of limited means; and lack of confidentiality.50 In addition, concerns have been expressed that McKenzie Friends owe no duty to the court and as to the application of legal professional privilege when they are acting for a LiP. Care, however, has to be taken with both studies given the limited evidence on which they are based, their acknowledged lack of detailed consideration of benefits of McKenzie Friends from the LiPs’ point of view.

            I don’t see how that makes it a grey area. There reference to care having to be taken is as regards the studies’ conclusions, not the fact that confidentiality and privilege protection are not available to McKenzie friends. At any rate, you admitted above that you were “actually performing legal services”. Unless you have updated your conversion course, done a legal practice course and taken CPD courses, I think we can agree that you are under qualified to perform legal services. What actually stops you from answering my question is that you would have to admit that.

            • We can agree that I am under-qualified to perform the legal services that a solicitor is qualified to provide. That’s why I don’t, and am glad that, legally, I can’t.

              A solicitor’s duty to the SRA to maintain client confidentiality is not the only sort of duty of confidentiality. There are also contractual duties and duties arising under the old or new Data Protection Act, the latter informed by the GDPR. If I answered your criticisms by gossiping about to my former clients, revealing more than they wish to have revealed, I’d be breaking a confidence just as much a solicitor would in the same circumstances. The precise legislation governing this and the remedies available to those aggrieved at the gossip would be different, that’s all. It’s a “grey area” over-simplification to say that solicitors owe a duty of confidence, whereas nobody else in the world does.

              I think you ought to chip into the debate on Law Gazette, rather than soldiering on here. Otherwise, people other than me might start to think you’ve got something personal against me too.

              • Ruth

                You’re under qualified to provide any legal services. Unless I’m wrong and you’ve recently updated your conversion course. If not, you’re advising based on 20 year old law. No wonder you don’t understand the rules of standing.

                • The day I got it, my CPE didn’t qualify me to deliver any legal services I wouldn’t already have been allowed to deliver with no qualifications at all. It only qualified me to go on the LPC or the BVC. The CPE expired for those purposes after 12 years, i.e. over ten years ago. By then, I hadn’t even started helping people with grievances to seek justice, when they couldn’t afford solicitors. But I didn’t need exams for what I used to do, described in the main body of this blog post, in a quote from my CV.

                  No judge or master I have ever come across has criticised me for helping my clients. The Lord Chief Justice has conducted a consultation about people like me, and concluded that the status quo is OK. The solicitor who head-hunted me for one of his clients and the solicitor-advocate I went on to head-hunt for that client never disrespected me as you now do. Admittedly, one barrister, the worse for drink, called me a “charlatan” on our first meeting, but he changed his tune when I explained my litigation strategy more fully at our next meeting, organised other than in a bar, at lunchtime, in order to avoid a repetition of the clash. Twice advocates who have been my colleagues have looked at me strangely in meetings, when I have said something that impressed them, and have said to me, “You are a lawyer!”

                  • Ruth

                    I call BS. You’re not a lawyer. Nothing you have said anywhere in this blog is remotely impressive, legally. You just bring one pointless failure of a JR after another.

                    • I would never describe myself as a “lawyer”, so you’re reminding me I’m not one isn’t a particularly effective insult.

                      Might I please have a list of my previous pointless failures of JRs that you seem to have in mind? Or is that some of your own “BS”?

                      What is your motivation, for arguing the hind leg of a donkey with me? What is at the root of your hostility?

  4. Christopher Whitmey

    Ruth v. John !!! You have my sympathies, John. I’ve acted as a LIP (litigant in person) at times and up to the Court of Appeal. If anyone ever asks me about a matter of law I always say, ‘I’m not a lawyer!’. I’ve never acted as a McKenzie friend.
    I cannot agree with Ruth when she says, ‘Frankly, your “clients” would be better off on their own.’. As we all know embarking on litigation with no knowledge of the process is a classic case of Alexander Pope’s line ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing.’
    I’ve recently appeared before an Appeal Tribunal. A solicitor-advocate asked, ‘Where did you get your legal training?’: ‘Save for careful reading of various books on legal process and case law – none.’ was my reply.

  5. Thank you.

    Certain things don’t change much in the law. Other changes get covered in the news and the legal blogs. It is possible to get on a mailing list, so that one can get every senior court judgment published.

    I did get caught by the Defamation Act 2013 though, when I sued the police for libel. In Common Law, defamation used to be actionable per se, without the need to show harm. I didn’t realise this had changed, so forgot to plead harm. A trans master gave me leave to amend at the first directions appointment. This was my own action, not for a client. It was settled.

    See: The police are not “the law”
    https://johnallmanuk.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/the-police-are-not-the-law/

    Ruth has now moved on to the next blog post, and has been commenting there.

    Police Scotland’s bid to wriggle out of hate crime bust
    https://johnallmanuk.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/police-scotland-tries-to-wriggle-out-of-a-hate-crime-bust/

    (I often get the feeling that people who comment on my blog don’t like me.)

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