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Eversheds head of operations Colin Brown has been reprimanded by the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS).
Brown was reproached for issuing a misleading press statement about Richard Collier, the former senior partner of Eversheds' Norwich office, who was severely reprimanded by the OSS last year for his inappropriate involvement in drawing up a will for a family member (The Lawyer, 29 May).
Collier subsequently resigned as senior partner, claiming the reprimand meant he was no longer able to continue in a management role (The Lawyer, 5 June).
But Brown, formerly the East of England managing partner until a reshuffle last year, has now been hauled in front of the OSS for issuing an incorrect press statement regarding Collier's actions.
The press release stated: "Eversheds can confirm that Richard Collier of Eversheds' Norwich office was reprimanded on 26 April by the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors' Compliance and Supervision Committee for a breach of a practice rule. A reprimand is the lightest form of professional discipline. Mr Collier's fitness to practise was never in issue."
But Robert Banks, who brought the original case against Collier, complained to the OSS, arguing that the statement meant the public was misled about Collier's conduct and the findings of the OSS.
The OSS agreed that to say Collier was reprimanded, when he was in fact severely reprimanded, was inaccurate. It also agreed that it is not the lightest form of action the OSS could take, although it is also by no means the most severe. The statement as a whole, it found, was misleading.
Eversheds managing partner David Ansbro says he is "disappointed" by the OSS's findings, adding: "Colin had no intention of misleading anybody."
The statement was issued on behalf of the firm by public relations group Fishburn Hedges. Ansbro declines to comment on the firm's future involvement with the company.
Collier recently made the decision, aged 56, to retire from Eversheds. He will step down in April but will continue working with clients as a consultant.