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Solicitors Negligence: Solicitors retainer.May 21, 2012
Farnon v Devonshires Solicitors (a firm)  EWHC 3167(QB):
In this recent professional negligence case brought by the Claimant against city law firm Devonshires Solicitors,Ms Farnon who was hedge fund manager based in Hong Kong had alleged that Nicola Philp, a partner at Devonshires, had failed to advise her adequately as to a sexual discrimination claim against her former employers Polar Capital in 2009.
However in his judgment in the Solicitors Negligence case Mr. Justice Owen rejected the claim, he suggested that the fact that Ms Philp’s raised the question of sex discrimination in order to allow the Ms Farnon to advance these arguments to strengthen her negotiating position in a meeting that was to take place on the 16th May 2008 with the Chief Operating Officer (COO), did not
- “expand the terms of the retainer so as to oblige Ms Philp to give comprehensive advice as to a claim for sexual discrimination. Nor was she instructed to pursue such a claim.”
With regards to the evidence Mr. Justice Owen suggested that aspects of Ms Farnon’s evidence did “not ring true”, was “wholly unconvincing”, “extremely vague” and was “unsupported by any documentary evidence”. Further he stated that Ms Farnon “was prepared to give a false impression in order to secure a job. Such evidence does little to install confidence in her credibility”.
Mr. Justice Owen continued:
- “There is a direct conflict of evidence between the claimant and Ms Philp. I unhesitatingly accept the evidence of Ms Philp’s supported as it is by the contemporaneous documentation, which serves fatally to undermine the account given by the claimant.”
- “I am therefore satisfied the retainer was limited in its scope to advising the claimant as to her proposed exit from the LLP so as to enable her to take up a position with a direct competitor without being held to her notice or to the restrictive covenants contained in the Partnership Agreement. Ms Philp was not retained to advise on a potential claim for sex discrimination. I am satisfied that it was Ms Philp who raised the question of sex discrimination, and did so in order to enable the claimant to deploy such arguments that could sensibly be advanced to strengthen her negotiating position in the meeting that was to take place with the COO on 16 May 2008. The fact that the subject arose in that context did not in my judgment expand the terms of the retainer so as to oblige Ms Philp to give comprehensive advice as to a claim for sex discrimination. Nor was she instructed to pursue such a claim.”
Mr. Justice Owen concluded that
- “It follows that in my judgment the claimant has failed to establish that Ms Philp was in breach of her duties to her, and the claim must be dismissed.”
In light of the judgment Devonshires’ Senior Partner, Mr. Alan Hudson, commented, “This judgment confirms the quality of Nicola Philp’s advice and of her professionalism in the face of an ill-advised and unfounded claim.”
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