Leigh Day paralegals resign in row over Grenfell poster
Two paralegals who put up posters around the Grenfell Tower offering their services have resigned from Leigh Day, the London law firm announced yesterday.
The firm had suspended the pair while it investigated their actions, which were disclosed by The Times, but they have resigned before that process was complete. The episode was an embarrassment to the law firm that was recently brought before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal over charges of professional misconduct in relation to discredited Iraqi claims alleging abuse by UK troops. Leigh Day was ultimately cleared of all charges.
A spokesman for the firm said: “As soon as the posters displayed around the Grenfell Tower were brought to our attention, a formal internal investigation was commenced. The two paralegals who had displayed the posters around the Grenfell site were suspended whilst this investigation took place. Both paralegals have chosen to tender their resignations before this investigation completed, these resignations have been accepted.
“We are clear that neither of the individuals have supplied any names to the firm as potential clients and Leigh Day was not the ‘third party’ referred to in the posters. Leigh Day supports many official external pro bono initiatives, and continues to support voluntary work in which many of our staff are involved.”
The spokesman added that it was reporting on the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority later this week.
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Former solicitor-general protests at government “attacks” on Leigh Day
The resignations came as Harriet Harman, the former solicitor-general, accused ministers of undermining the rule of law by attacking Leigh Day over its legal claims against the Ministry of Defence.
The former deputy Labour leader is calling on the Attorney-General, Jeremy Wright, QC, to stop ministers from attacking “an independent and fearless legal profession” and seeking to denounce lawyers who are representing claimants who say their rights have been violated by the government.
Harman, who was solicitor-general between 2001 and 2005, accused Whitehall of sending emails to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority that were “wholly inappropriate” and “designed and perceived to subject the SRA to pressure.” She has asked if the emails will be published.
“It is quite wrong for the government to seek to dictate to the SRA who they should be taking action against,” said the now backbench MP for Camberwell and Peckham in London. “It is invidious for the government to denounce solicitors who are representing claimants who believe that their rights have been violated by the government.”
Harman went on to say that “it is not for the government to decide whether any case against it is justified. That is a matter for the court. It is not for the government to decide if any case is vexatious or wrongly brought. That, too, is for the court.
“It is not for the government to decide who should be in the legal profession. That is for the profession and the independent Solicitors Regulatory Authority.”
Harman said that in her view, the government’s pressure on the SRA to bring disciplinary proceedings against Leigh Day and three of its lawyers was an action that undermined the rule of law” .
It was “designed to deter solicitors taking actions on behalf of clients claiming that the government had breached their human rights and was wholly wrong”, she said.