Yorkshire solicitor struck off after charging magic circle rates

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By Alex Aldridge on

£750-an-hour for executing a will


A solicitor at a small High Street practice in York has been struck off after charging himself out at the rate of a top partner at a magic circle law firm.

Philip Crowe’s mega billing occurred while he was executing a client’s will, for which he overcharged by more than £50,000.

At a recent disciplinary tribunal, a costs expert brought in to assist on the matter said that Crowe’s enormous fee, which equated to £750-an-hour, “dwarfs the rate that even the senior partner of a City firm could conceivably charge on the most complex of matters”.

Legal Cheek begs to differ slightly on that one. According to research by another law firm costs expert, Jim Diamond, the five magic circle firms charge out their partners for between £775-850 an hour, while the London offices of US firms will go slightly higher, to as much as £900.

So Crowe is fractionally cheaper than London’s finest corporate dealmakers. Still, for someone who dubbed his firm, Philip Crowe Solicitor, as ‘The Affordable Law Company’, he seems rather expensive.

And some other aspects of the solicitor’s conduct suggest that his astronomical rates may not have been a reflection of misunderstood brilliance.

According to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, the 79-year-old, who retired three years ago, kept the billing clock ticking while attending his client’s funeral.

And Crowe also took a loan of £121,950 out of a client’s account to pay off a personal loan, in breach of solicitors’ accounts rules.

During his hearing Crowe denied he inflated his costs or was dishonest, saying the charges appeared high but were justified. He added that the client had instructed that he should be “very well paid” for dealing with matters.

The tribunal concluded he “acted without integrity” in inflating his costs and had taken unfair advantage of the client. It ordered that he be struck off the roll of solicitors and pay £30,000 costs.

Speaking after the hearing, Crowe said he should have retired earlier and said the problems arose because of poor paperwork rather than dishonesty.