By now the story is well known. Law firm Davenport Lyons initiated the now-infamous anti-piracy settlement work in the UK but backed out due to bad publicity. ACS:Law, somehow thinking things would be different for them, took on the work expecting an easy ride.
But bad publicity and intense controversy greeted the law firm and its owner Andrew Crossley at every turn and eventually the company went bust. Today, Crossley faced the ultimate shame as a lawyer, by appearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
Despite previous displays of stubborn bravado, according to ‘Speculative Invoicing’ expert Will Gilmour who was in court today, Crossley disputed only one of the seven charges against him.
Firstly, the charge that he allowed his independence to be compromised and acted in a manner contrary to the best interests of his clients – ironically the copyright holders on whose behalf he extracted cash settlements from the public – was not contested.
Crossley, whose disastrous foray into this controversial work was laid bare when his company documents were leaked onto the web in 2010, lodged no dispute against claims that he acted in a way that was likely to diminish the trust the public places in him or in the legal profession.
The fourth accusation, that Crossley “Entered into arrangements to receive contingency fees for work done in prosecuting or defending contentious proceedings before the Courts of England and Wales except as permitted by statute or the common law” was also met with acceptance from the lawyer.
Furthermore, Crossley did not contest that he acted where there was a “conflict of interest in circumstances not permitted, in particular because there was a conflict with those of his clients,” nor that he “used his position as a Solicitor to take or attempt to take unfair advantage of other persons being recipients of letters of claim either for his own benefit or for the benefit of his clients.”
The only point contested by Crossley related to an SRA/SDT accusation that he acted improperly in connection with data breaches from ACS:Law’s website during 2010. Crossley pointed the finger at the company’s web host for allegedly leaving a backup of the lawfirm’s data in a publicly accessible area.
In their decision announced just a few moments ago, the Tribunal suspended Crossley from operating as a lawyer for 2 years and ordered him to pay costs of £77,000. While opponents had hoped for a permanent ban, the lengthy suspension will be seen as a huge black mark against his reputation.
Also revealed in the hearing was the personal cost to the now-suspended lawyer. In addition to being unable to find work since the revelations against him, Crossley remains bankrupt and has split from his partner of 15 years.