"Erm, typing up narrative - 6 hours."
An "old school" solicitor who overcharged nearly £475k on four matters has agreed to be struck off the roll.
George Edward Nosworthy, 79, set up conveyancing and probate firm Cree Godfrey & Wood in 1970 in London, and worked there up until last year, when his practice was closed down by the SRA.
The regulator was initially alerted to Nosworthy's creative approach to billing when it reviewed the accountant's report for the firm for the financial year 2019/20. Investigators discovered that over a course of several years, Nosworthy had overcharged three estates and also a trust set up under a will to benefit a disabled woman.
The SRA's costs lawyer found there had been a pattern of suspicious invoicing by Nosworthy, characterised by little or no evidence of time recording, insufficient narratives, and bills raised in quick succession despite an absence of activity on the relevant files.
In a statement of agreed facts, approved by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Nosworthy was described as an "old school" solicitor who had struggled to keep up with the changes to regulation and requirements of maintaining a legal practice in a modern world.
In attempting to “catch up” all the time, Nosworthy failed to maintain cash flow, which the tribunal described as "the lifeblood of any business", noting that "the peculiar nature of a solicitors practice often means that cash flow is not available in the same as a retain business".
The lawyer was often "exhausted when dealing with transfers on a Sunday evening", and would bill some matters "knowing that the sums were improper".
Nosworthy admitted he had been dishonest and overcharged on the four matters to the tune of £475,000 in total.
In mitigation, Nosworthy said he had difficulties controlling the management and volume of work as he regularly worked seven days a week and struggled with the costs of running the firm.
Nosworthy said the SRA's intervention in 2021, while stressful, was also a "welcome relief" as he could "stop working 80 hours a week and for the first time in years and have a rest". He sold his business premises and the family home he shared with his wife, which enabled him to put £760,000 into an individual voluntary agreement to repay creditors, including the SRA.
The tribunal noted that Nosworthy was ashamed of his “personal failings” and that he had shown true remorse, and tried to recompense the losses through the sale of his business and personal assets.
Nosworthy agreed to be struck off, and pay the SRA’s costs of £36,157.