A solicitor in a Kirkintilloch legal firm which overcharged clients by more than £100,000 has been struck off.
Alison Greer, (51), was found guilty of professional misconduct after her firm was found to have claimed fees to which it was “not entitled”.
She took money from the company while it was being “financed by overcharges to clients”.
The Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) heard that Mrs Greer was, along with twin brother Philip Hogg, a partner in the firm Alder Hogg.
In 2007 Mrs Greer was made the subject of a complaint that she allegedly failed to respond to correspondence.
But proceedings before the SSDT were abandoned when it became apparent that the letters had been hidden from her by her husband Kenneth Greer, a non-lawyer who was the firm’s office manager and cashier.
However, the firm continued to employ him until a judicial factor was appointed in September 2012, when financial irregularities were uncovered.
The tribunal heard that between March 2002 and September 2011, her firm took fees including VAT of nearly £220,000 for dealing with a couple’s will, but the firm was found to have overcharged by £90,000.
Files in relation to work on wills for other clients were also assessed and the fees taken were found to be “excessive”, the firm having overcharged by up to £8,000.
In total the amount of fees wrongly taken and not refunded was £126,864.64, resulting in claims having to be paid out by the solicitors’ guarantee fund.
Mrs Greer was the firm’s cash room partner, responsible for ensuring it complied with financial rules, at the time the overcharging occurred.
She told the tribunal she had no knowledge of the overcharging and that the fees had been set by her husband.
In a written decision, SSDT vice chairman Alan McDonald said: “The respondent had continued in her role as cash room partner and had failed to supervise her husband over a period of years where she had previous notice of her husband’s dishonesty in hiding correspondence from her and where she was aware that the firm had financial difficulties.
“Her complete dereliction of duty as cash room partner had allowed a course of conduct to persist for three years and had led to a deficit of £126,828.64.
“Client funds had been used by this firm for a number of years to finance the partner’s drawings.
“The files where overcharging had taken place were all executries, which were her area of work.
“The tribunal had no hesitation in unanimously holding that the conduct of the respondent fell well below the standard to be expected of a competent and reputable solicitor which could only be categorised as serious and reprehensible.”
The firm was also found to have taken money from client accounts to which it was “not entitled” although in most cases the money was re-credited.
The firm’s client account was continually in deficit from October 2008 until the appointment of the judicial factor and Mrs Greer continued to draw from the firm while it was being financed by excessive charges to clients.
The tribunal accepted Mrs Greer explanation that she had no day-to-day involvement in the setting of fees but said she had failed to supervise the activities of her husband.
Last year Mr Hogg was suspended from practising as a solicitor for five years by the SSDT following a separate hearing.