Master of illusion, sorcerer of stupid.

A former Slater and Gordon partner has been struck off after stringing along a client for 17 years and lying to her that she’d won £360,000 in a personal injury claim.

Nicholas Collins began his marathon fib when ‘EH’ used his firm, which was then Russell Jones & Walker, to make a claim against her employer, HMRC, for a repetitive strain-type injury.

EH was offered a £30k settlement in 2002 but turned it down. Luckily for her, or so she believed, Collins took over her case as an associate in 2004 and continued running it as a partner when his firm merged with Slater and Gordon in 2012.

He broke the good news to EH in 2013 that counsel had valued her claim at £245k, texting her, “Hello. £245k. Only got the figure. Seems light to me. Will find out more info and get in touch….”

In 2014 she received the even more fantastic news from Collins that the courts had awarded her £360,136.10.

However, EH’s matter was beset by delays and Collins informed her that HMRC was appealing the award. It was unsuccessful, he later reported, but the revenue wasn't paying up so he was having to initiate enforcement proceedings.

All his updates were substantiated by documents which he provided to EH, ranging from submissions to counsel to notes of court hearings. And all of it was completely bogus.

Collins had in fact never even made contact with HMRC. There had never been any court hearings, nor instructions to barristers, and no damages had been awarded. He had not sought enforcement of a judgment.

However, he did put in place measures to protect his lie. Collins was EH’s only point of contact at Slaters. He also closed the matter on the firm's case management systems so it didn’t get flagged as unresolved.

Over the years he invested considerable effort in cultivating the impression of forward motion, sending EH letters and texts to keep her appraised of her fictional case’s progress.

“Hi just to say all ok with 16 weeks. No commitment to less but will try if poss…..”, read one text regarding a meeting with a barrister that didn’t happen.

“Barrister back last week after hols over Xmas. Clerk to speak to him and apply pressure…” said another, referencing more imaginary updates.

Unaware of any of this, in 2020 EH enlisted her MP, Mel Stride, to help her extract her award from HMRC “as she believed they were refusing and/or delaying payment of the settlement figure”.

Stride reported back to his constituent that HMRC had no record of any claim, at which point EH reported Collins to Slaters and, later, the SRA.

In what must have been an interesting meeting, on 17 November 2021 Collins was asked to explain what was going on by Slaters Head of Injury Matthew Tomlinson, and he admitted that he had misled EH and had “done so for a long time”.

He explained to Tomlinson that EH had been under the impression that her case against HMRC had settled and that she was owed a considerable sum of money, “which was not the case”.

Collins was suspended and in a follow-up meeting with Slater and Gordon he confessed everything, including forging documents to fool EH. The partner said all the documents, such as a third-party debt order complete with calculations for interest, and a letter to the Complaints Officer at the High Court Enforcement Group in 2017, were faked “to try to portray myself to be seen to be doing something”.

“I guess I don’t think there is much dispute over what has happened”, he said at the meeting, according to notes taken by the firm.

“Gross negligence and grossly misleading the client - well, if gross is taken to be obvious and unacceptable, then I think what I’ve done is obvious and I think it is unacceptable", he said.

The long-lying lawyer was allowed to resign on 21 December 2021.

EH told the SDT, "I feel like I have been conned" and that the fantasy compensation she believed Collins had secured had given her “some financial security for my future… It also contributed to my husband’s decision to take early retirement”.

The matter had “dominated most of my life, I was 24 when my case started and currently my claim is in its 26th year with no resolution in sight”, she said.

“I do not know why Mr Collins would do this to me, why he would string me along all these years. At any time over the last 19 years, he could have owned up but even now after he has been caught out he has not acknowledged or apologised for his dishonesty”.

EH said she had sleepless nights "thinking about if this will ever be sorted”, and that HMRC was no longer prepared to deal with her claim. Her only remaining option was to sue S&G, she said, “which would mean having to trust another firm of solicitor and having the continuing stress and expense of legal action”.

In mitigation, Collins said he had co-operated with the SRA and that he had a clean disciplinary record, at least until that one massive fraud he was perpetrating against a client was discovered.

Ordering Collins to be struck off, the SDT said his misconduct was “at the highest level”. Another win! 

The firm said in a statement, “Nicholas Collins has not been employed by Slater and Gordon since December 2021 and therefore we do not have any further comment on this case”.

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Anon 10 May 24 08:39

Let’s hope HRMC turn their attention to every aspect of his personal tax affairs and make his retirement as difficult as possible. 

Nightstalker 10 May 24 08:44

Why on earth do lawyers do this?  


I can remember a similar  case back in the 70s.  As a then recently qualified solicitor I was handling a ligation matter in which the other party was represented by a relatively senior lawyer in another firm with whom I established a courteous professional relationship.  Said opponent suddenly disappeared from view - a lot easier in the days before social media.  The lawyer who took over the case remained tight-lipped about his colleague's Houdini act.

Some months later, a short report in the Gazette (then a broadsheet size journal that arrived in the post) mentioned that the vanishing litigator had been struck off for inventing steps in litigation that hadn't been take.  The gossip mill suggested that there were multiple cases involved.  Seemingly the bloke took on more work than he could handle - and didn't handle it.



Dave 10 May 24 08:54

I'm baffled by this whole thing. What was the point in stringing EH along? I'm not clear what he got out of it

limey 10 May 24 09:04

I knew of a chap who, presumably missing deadlines etc, pretended to have obtained settlement to clients and then paid it out of his own pocket, but that was to the tune of a grand or two each time (he was eventually caught when he did it one too many times). The sheer scale of this meant that the partner must have had no doubt that his lie would be discovered. Was he spinning out time in the hope of a nuclear war or, ahem, a raging pandemic?

Anonymous 10 May 24 09:19

I don't get it, did he make some kind of mistake and then just double down on it forever? I don't understand how/why it ever got started? Why did he send her the email saying she had been awarded damages?

Also, obvs he isn't the victim here, but can you imagine the stress of living your life with this kind of deception hanging over you. Knowing that at any moment your life could just be completely blown apart by its discovery? Surprised he doesn't have more grey hair to be honest...

Arachnae 10 May 24 09:23

What was the point, you cry? I suspect it was to save face for having, at that point, committed a minor error which would not have been career threatening if own up to.

Anonymous 10 May 24 09:44

@Arachnae - yes, I think he might one day be beatified as the Patron Saint of Doubling Down On Your Errors.

Coming to a stained glass window near you soon.

Anonymous 10 May 24 10:03

With the amount of effort it took to maintain this lie, it would have been easier for him to run the actual case to conclusion.

Anonymous 10 May 24 11:23

"With the amount of effort it took to maintain this lie, it would have been easier for him to run the actual case to conclusion."

Or just put down the stress of running an elaborate deception for years and to have gone and worked as a lumberjack or something instead...

Anonymous 10 May 24 17:20

My very first job as a lawyer (in-house), I discovered my predecessor had been practicing whilst disbarred and had forged pleadings for both sides in various civil claims, including one against his immediate predecessor, in order to deceive the boss/owner. That was a baptism of fire, I can tell you. 

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