A law firm partner has been told to reflect on his ‘grave error of judgement’ in making an immigration application knowing his client could be lying.
Mansoor Ali, 39, had proceeded with an appeal to the Upper Tribunal for his client to stay in the UK, despite being told by the client he had been cheating the system for a number of years.
The client, who hailed from Pakistan and stayed in the UK as a student, told Ali in February 2014 he had never been to college and instead had paid money to agents to secure certificates and admissions from educational establishments. This confession was recorded in Ali’s file notes.
Despite this, the solicitor, who agreed a fee of £720, went ahead the next day with an application to appeal his client’s case to the Upper Tribunal.
At a two-day hearing at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in June, the SRA said Ali knew his client was being ‘disingenuous’ about his status as a student and was instead working full-time in a grocery shop.
The regulator accepted Ali was required to advance his client’s case, but when that requirement came into conflict with his duties to the court and other legal obligations, he was required to cease to act.
Ali, a partner at Manchester firm One Source Solicitors who was admitted in 2012, was reported to the SRA by the Legal Ombudsman after the client had made a complaint about his service.
Ali claimed his client had retracted the admissions made and assured him the application was genuine after all. The SRA suggested Ali’s argument there was no evidence to prove the client was not a legitimate student ‘flies in the face of logic and reason’.
The solicitor had taken the view this was a longstanding client, he had seen relevant documents, and the client had Home Office paperwork. He believed his client’s certificates were genuine and real.
The tribunal was not satisfied it was reasonable for Ali to lodge and proceed with an appeal based on his client continuing in education. It noted that no solicitor who was not reckless would proceed to make such an application.
‘It was not a complicated question that [Ali] had to resolve,’ said the judgment. ‘His client had lied to him and he should not have continued acting for him. You did not need to be an experienced solicitor to be able to understand the issue.’
He was handed an indefinite suspension, with the tribunal saying he may only return once he could ‘demonstrate a period of reflection’ through working in a quasi-legal setting and showing he had kept up to date with the law.
Ali will also pay £19,481 in costs.