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Sexist email DLA Piper partner fined £15,000

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Nick West hit headlines back in 2014 after a number of derogatory emails between him and Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore were leaked

SRA

A partner at international giant DLA Piper has been slapped with a £15,000 fine, and a £12,000 order for costs, after it emerged that he had exchanged a number of sexist emails with a high profile client.

Nicholas West — a sports and media law specialist at DLA Piper’s London office — found himself at the centre of media frenzy back in 2014, when an email thread between himself and Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore was leaked to the press.

According to the Law Society Gazette, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard yesterday how West — who is “regarded as one of the best sports broadcasting lawyers” according to his online profile — used inappropriate language during a number of email exchanges with Scudamore.

The tribunal were told how West used the word “klunt” in various email exchanges claiming that this was actually a reference to a character in the Ricky Gervais book Flanimals. A Klunt (pictured below) being a ‘blug’ who is extremely aggressive and very, very angry and sweats profusely because its blood is always boiling in anger.

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It was hard to reconcile this claim with an email citing a potential new female member of staff in which the experienced lawyer used the word “kluntilicious” and the phrase “dangle on your dongle”. And in other emails in which he used the words “klunt”, “klunty” and “kluntastic”.

In further emails flagged up at the hearing, West used the term “foetus shopping” and seemed to offer the Premier league big-wig a spot of financial advice, saying “save the cash, in case you find some gash”.

Accepting that the emails had breached the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA) principles, Russell-Cooke’s Peter Cadman, who was representing West (pictured below), told the tribunal that the line between client and friend had become “blurred”.

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Describing the incident as a “painful lesson” Cadman stressed that West was the “replier” and not the “instigator” but accepted that this was “not an excuse” for his behaviour.

Cadman — who revealed to the tribunal that West had missed out on a bonus from DLA Piper estimated to between £20,000 and £25,000 — continued:

He [West] never expected to be here in his professional career. He has lost his good name.

Describing the length of time over which the emails were exchanged as “significant”, the tribunal suggested that an “experienced solicitor” would have “urged caution”, before continuing:

Some of the emails were despicable in content, particularly so where the client was striving to promote equality and diversity. It was a sad and salutary lesson for West given his previous exemplary career.

When news of the emails first broke, DLA Piper conducted their own investigation into the matter. With West issuing an apology stating he had “let myself, my firm and its clients down”, the senior lawyer and the firm reassured those calling for his sacking, that nothing like this would happen again.

A year on and with West presumably thinking he was in the clear, the SRA confirmed that he would face disciplinary action. The conclusion of which has resulted in the DLA man being handed a £15,000 fine and a £12,000 bill for costs.