I’m a loser, baby

April 23, 2015

The opposite of award-winning lawyerly behaviour

Image: Shutterstock


Readers will recall our recent celebration of the legal world’s award winners. Truly, a heart-warming celebration of the most inspiring and instructive examples of legal professionalism at work today – the Oscars of the law.

But as keen movie goers will know, the Oscars are nothing without the Razzies, which reward the most hammy performances and the most atrocious screenplays. And so we present our very own version of the Razzies, by rounding up some of the most egregious examples of lawyerly failings over the past year.

Needless to say, we do this more in sorrow than in anger, hoping these cautionary tales will inspire our readers on to acts of integrity and greatness.

The ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’ Awards (sponsored by Destiny’s Child)

A certain Tariq Rehman, public access barrister of some infamy, has been suspended after failing to pay bills to the tune of more than £2k. He’d already been named as a client risk after securing a magnificent 25 complaints in two years. Apparently (he says) the ombudsman hasn’t taken into account his business model (oh sure: that’ll be it).

Meanwhile the CPS is off to the courts to get its knuckles firmly rapped after a firm is still waiting (im)patiently for £3,600 of wasted costs to be paid. Those with a tendency to ‘overlook’ their teetering piles of bills: take note.

The Pinocchio Award for dishonesty

In a crowded field, the Pinocchio Award is shared between two long-nosed lawyers. First, step forward erstwhile family lawyer Duncan Ranton, formerly of Kingsley Napley, who has been struck off for misleading his client. In 2012 he sent his client what purported to be a true copy of a consent order, but which was not. He then went on to mislead both his opponents and his employers, and generally be thoroughly dishonest about the whole affair.

Meanwhile, Gibson Dunn has got to stump up the princely sum of £880,000 after partner Peter Gray misled the high court. In a case involving a grenade attack in the African republic of Djibouti, a businessman was implicated because of wrongly dated phone transcripts. The High Court ruled that Gray knew perfectly well they were false, but went ahead with submitting them in order to freeze the businessman’s assets, and get him extradited to a jail which doubtless would have been a bit lacking on the human rights front.

The ‘House of Cards’ award for intrigue and skulduggery

Fittingly, we turn to the US in order to award the firm demonstrating the kind of behaviour of which Claire and Francis Underwood would have certainly approved. Over at New York firm Napoli Bern, things have got pretty heated. When partner Paul Napoli became gravely ill with leukaemia, his co-founding partner (who should presumably take the Beelzebub award for Downright Evil) began setting about digging the dirt.

It seems the main bone (sorry) of contention was Napoli’s affair with associate Vanessa Dennis, who was ejected from the firm with a $150,000 pay-off after Napoli’s wife wised up to their shenanigans. Among the papers gleefully dug up were emails sent by the aggrieved wife, charmingly suggesting Dennis have a little think about her behavior (Tell ur hoe 2 stop f-?-king my man, we got a family .?.?. I’ve been watching that slut. She needs to backoff”).

Matters subsequently got infinitely more complicated, even involving a missing cat called Padme. RollonFriday.com has helpfully drawn a diagram of the whole rotten business, including a portrait of poor Padme.

The Frank Spencer award for pranks gone wrong

Pity whichever wit over at international firm Weil Gotshal decided to bring a little April Fool lightness to the working day. When all staff received an email with the header ‘Important New Email Policy’, it would seem they failed to spot the date. The note outlined the firm’s new policy that only emails sent between 6am and 11pm would be sent – an act of generosity (albeit a fake one) intended to encourage staff to switch off their phones and iPads, and take a break from the rat race.

Alas for those feverishly planning what to do with all this newly acquired free time, no such policy was ever going to be implemented. The backlash was swift and bitter (and almost certainly went on into the small hours: irony!).

The Good Wife award for glamour

Bad news for those drawn to the legal profession by TV’s glossy depictions of life at the coalface of the law. Certainly, there are a fair few UK firms who can rival Alicia Florrick for vertiginous heels and a stunning urban view (we’re looking at you, Mathys and Squire), but it’s hardly guaranteed.

Pity then the back office staff at Freshfields. The firm is set to move 800 non-legal jobs from London to Manchester – and apparently unable to find a location that doesn’t actually slowly erode the soul from the inside is damning those staff to the Arndale Centre.

For those doubting quite how ghastly the Arndale is, we turn to the Guardian: “When the huge IRA bomb hit Manchester in 1996 the first question locals asked was “Was anyone killed?” The next was: “Did they get the Arndale Centre?” The answer to the first question was no and to the second, “Yes, but only part of it.” Sighs all round.”

The Joffrey Baratheon award for being just completely hateful

A certain Nigel Harvie has been handed a record fine by the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for behaviour which wouldn’t look out of place in the courts of the ghastly boy king himself.

Nigel Harvie – who evidently was born without an integrity gland – took advantage of an elderly client by persuading her to sign her home over to him. In exchange he was to pay for her care and living costs, which ran to the £200,000 over the course of five years (presumably Harvie was feeding her roast peacock and unicorn tears).

By 2012, Harvie was sitting on a nest egg of £800,000. To make matters worse, the lady in question was evidently as good and generous as Harvie was conniving and mean: she had intended her estate to help support foreign students.

Levying a fine of £305,000, the SDT said the public would be ‘appalled’ at his behaviour (though he was spared the sort of baroque execution which George RR Martin would doubtless have ordered). SP

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