About 18 months after sexist email exchanges between DLA Piper partner Nick West and a client were leaked, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has confirmed that there is a case to answer, meaning West now faces a hearing in the SDT.
Back in 2014, an email exchange between West and Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, which contained sexually explicit and sexist comments about a female colleague of Scudamore’s – who the pair had nicknamed ‘Edna’ – was made public by Scudamore’s former personal assistant Rani Abraham.
Following a conduct review DLA stood by sports broadcasting specialist West, who apologised. While DLA said it had no comment on the SDT referral, in 2014 the firm said it ‘accepted West’s assurances that these emails are not reflective of his beliefs and values and that there will be no recurrence of this behaviour’.
It added in a statement: ‘We have concluded that there was a failure to meet the high professional standards in which we take pride as a firm, whilst recognising that these were emails exchanged between friends and accessed without permission.’
The SRA, which decided in August 2015 it would pursue the case against West, must now prove to the criminal standard of proof that West was involved in inappropriate emails with his client. If the SDT finds the allegation to be proven, it can strike West from the roll or issue a fine.
The first case management hearing on the matter will be heard April 6.
The SRA, the agency which usually brings cases against solicitors to the SDT, is currently reviewing its internal legal function, in a bid to bring more work in-house, in a move which means its panel firms will also be re-assessed.