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One verdict on the SRA's decision.

The SRA has suspended a solicitor who practised without authorisation on probate matters and charged legal rates.

Susan Lebreton-Towell was the sole principal of eponymous firm Lebreton-Towell Solicitors from 1998 to 2016, when it was closed.

After that date, she carried out probate work for LT law, a company owned by her non-solicitor son, which was not authorised by the SRA.

The regulator received 22 complaints concerning matters the solicitor worked on, over a period of just over two years.

In one case, Lebreton-Towell charged “significant sums of money for legal work," at legal rates despite not working in "an authorised environment”. The SRA said that the experienced solicitor, who was admitted in 1994, should have been familiar with the practising requirements. 

In another matter, the solicitor was appointed as executrix for a client, Mr K, who died in December 2017. She charged "legal rates" of £200 per hour for work which included 12 hours on house clearance and eight hours attending an auction.

A law firm, appointed by Mr K's children, complained that it took Lebreton-Towell three months to provide a copy of the will, by which time the client had been buried contrary to his wishes. However, Lebreton-Towell said the burial was in "accordance with a family member's instructions." 

In another case where she was co-executrix of an estate for a deceased client, Lebreton-Towell failed to provide terms and conditions for her work to her co-executrix, which resulted in HMRC fining the estate for non-returns (although the penalties were later cancelled). A law firm for the co-executrix complained to the SRA about the lack of communication by Lebreton-Towell.

In an agreed outcome with the SRA, Lebreton-Towell admitted that she practised as a solicitor and conducted reserved legal activity at legal rates when not authorised.

In mitigation, she said that she "genuinely and honestly believed" she was entitled to practise as she did, but accepted "with the benefit of hindsight" that she had breached the solicitor rules.

The SRA suspended her for three months and she agreed to pay £16,000 in costs. 

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal approved the suspension stating that the solicitor had failed to act in her clients' best interests or protect their money and assets, and had failed to act with integrity.

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Sumoking 27 October 23 09:49

a probate lawyer thought she could practise but actually she couldn't and she got a 3 month holiday and some costs to pay?

slow news week rof? 

Officedrone 27 October 23 09:53

How is "failure to act with integrity" and "failure to act in clients' best interest or protect client money or assets" not a strike-off matter?

3 months suspension for what she did is ludicrous while other lawyers get struck off for merely dodging train fares (given how crap trains are in the UK, train companies should pay passengers to use the trains...).

Anonymous 27 October 23 10:26

"A law firm, appointed by Mr K's children, complained that it took Lebreton-Towell three months to provide a copy of the will, by which time the client had been buried contrary to his wishes."

Classic Gen-Z attitude, forever getting offended on someone else's behalf.

I note that the actual client didn't seem to raise any objections.

Anonymous 27 October 23 11:43

Perhaps the client was too busy raising from the dead to raise any objections about the three month delay?

No reservations 28 October 23 00:15

There aren't that many "reserved legal activities" left. If he'd been advising on employment law and screwed up hundreds of people's tribunal claims, there'd be no regulation or regulatory action at all.  I had a client locked into a 3-year contract with an unregulated HR adviser giving terrible advice through unqualified school-leavers with a BTEC in HR. Appalling.

Je Suis Monty Don l’Autobus 28 October 23 10:55

Offifedrone: Getting puce in the face with rage at another member of the profession not having been permanently deprived of their livelihood in the manner that would seem to excite you is an ugly look.

Striking-off should be a rare remedy indeed. 

This lady’s offences seem fairly trivial.

Dishonestly evading train fares is clearly a worse indictment of a solicitor than being a few weeks late sending someone a will.

Anonymous 31 October 23 16:21

This corrupt so called professional is the executor of my late father's will at the moment she has been is an absolutely vile human being .. she is using her sons firm lt law sending me letter costing god knows how much as she will not tell me she is secretive and distances herself from any communication .. she has shown no empathy saying well we have all lost someone 

Anonymous Person 02 November 23 21:50

Could someone explain what the SRA mean by she was charging “legal rates”. Leaving aside the fact she was doing reserved work, what other rates would she possibly be charging? Which SRA rules allow them to interfere with the rates someone charges other than price transparency rules?

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