May I introduce Mr Trevor Hobden, lately of Canada House Partnership, Grammar School Road, North Walsham, Norfolk and lately a solicitor. Mr Hobden is to be noted for his balanced approach to billing.
Mr Hobden has been struck off the roll and will have to close his new firm, Convey First in Norwich, because of his dishonest (and failing that, grossly negligent) actions. A few samples of Mr Hobden’s billing:
£1,500 was removed from the legacy of one couple when the appropriate bill would be £650.
One estate was charged £13,571, and the money was taken from the client’s cash in 14 transactions without a bill being sent.
The estate of Mr Roy Ellis was charged more than £8,000 in four separate transactions between November 2004 and April 2005, removing all its remaining cash assets, even though the file was dormant.
To investigators and the SDT, Mr Hobden, an equity partner at the time, claimed his bills on the Ellis file were for ‘reviewing’ work already done by retired partner Gerald Goodley and were his ‘best guess’.
When asked if ‘You would look at Mr Goodley’s work and decide whether he had under-billed or not?’ Mr Hobden replied: ‘That would be one of the ways of putting it.’ Or, as the SRA advocate put it ‘You billed just enough to reduce the balance to zero.’
When he was first questioned by investigators Mr Hobden said he had not been properly trained to cost work and said he weighed the file in his hand. That is Mr Hobden, the 47 year old equity partner.
Giving evidence to the tribunal Mr Hobden said: ‘I felt I was justified’ but admitted his behaviour was ‘careless.’ The SDT disagreed, finding him guilty of taking money from a client account in respect of costs without delivering a bill, taking money which was not properly due to him, overcharging a client and failing to give clients proper information. He was struck of the roll for dishonesty. However, Mr Hobden can take comfort that somehow, perhaps incredibly, he was cleared of having compromised or impaired his integrity. So, he behaved dishonestly, but with integrity.
Now, let me just pick up this file. Hmm, nearly put my back out. Must be at least an £8K bill.