I’ll never practise again, says bankrupt solicitor

A solicitor has said she will never be able to practise law again after she was declared bankrupt.

The Law Society suspended Hilary Carmichael last October while it investigated what are believed to be financial irregularities.

The body took over the running of Ms Carmichael’s practice in Londonderry which she established almost 20 years ago and an office which she opened in Ballymoney last year.

It was revealed that in December 2011 the Law Society advertised for a buyer for Ms Carmichael’s legal practice which included the ‘goodwill, including the business name, any work in progress, subject to work in progress outlay, contracts of the business, clients monies to the extent such monies do not relate to files within the excluded assets, all employees of the business and the office equipment’.

Speaking on Wednesday, Ms Carmichael confirmed she is now bankrupt and can no longer practise as a solicitor.

She also hit out at the Law Society, claiming it failed to help her when she could not pay money owed to the Inland Revenue. She said: “I simply could not pay all of my tax bill.

“There were a lot of bills to be paid and given a bit of time I could have paid my bill. The Inland Revenue were happy to give me time but as for the Law Society, they were having none of it. The Law Society don’t assist you, you pay your fees for your practice certificate and the hefty insurance fees but when push comes to shove, there is nobody there to help.

“The Law Society comes in and gets rid of you and that’s it.”

Chief Executive of the Law Society Alan Hunter would not comment on Ms Carmichael’s criticism of how she was treated by the body. He said: “Following investigations, the Law Society of Northern Ireland intervened to take control of Hilary Carmichael’s practice.

“She is suspended as a solicitor and the matter will be heard by the Independent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

“The Law Society continues to work through the outstanding matters raised in the investigation. The Society shall take every step to discipline errant solicitors where appropriate.

“Such instances as in this case are rare.”