SRA bans unqualified litigator from profession over costs claims

SRA: Section 43 order

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has banned an unqualified litigator from working in the profession after trying to recover costs to which his firm was not entitled.

The decision comes shortly after the owner of Manchester law firm Clinch Solicitors was suspended for three years for pursuing personal injury (PI) cases without the consent of clients and paying prohibited referral fees.

Martin Hulston worked at Clinch Solicitors between January 2015 and July 2016, initially as a litigation executive before taking on the roles of head of debt recovery and dealing with client complaints.

The SRA closed the firm in May 2017 and found that Mr Hulston had sought to recover costs and/or disbursements from clients which the regulator said he knew, or should have known, the firm was either not entitled to or should not have been pursuing in the circumstances.

It said he also made a misleading statement to a client regarding the reasons why an after-the-event insurer had declined cover, while “the manner and way in which Mr Hulston attempted to recover costs was inappropriate and failed to take account of his clients’ needs”.

The SRA has made him subject to a so-called section 43 order, which means he cannot work for an SRA-regulated firm without its permission – and ordered him to pay its costs of £600.

Our sister site Legal Futures reported in February that the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found Andrew Paul Clinch’s misconduct “shocking and outrageous” and that it had a “significant adverse impact on the reputation of the profession”.

However, it did not find it necessary to strike him off, although the tribunal said his actions would “reinforce a view held by some members of the public that members of the profession were prepared to pursue claims for their own benefit rather than for the benefit of clients”.

Mr Clinch, born in 1980 and admitted in 2006, was the sole principal of Clinch Solicitors. At its height, the firm had 15 fee-earners, three support staff, about 3,500 cases and an annual turnover of £2.5m.

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