An unqualified "legal adviser" should be held to the same standard of competence as a qualified lawyer if they held themselves out as equivalent, the High Court in London has ruled.

The Law Society Gazette has reported an award of damages and costs totalling £337,000 against George Rusz and Romford business Troy Lucas & Co, for the negligent handling of a clinical negligence case. 

The case was brought by Paul Wright, who was left permanently disabled after an operation at Basildon & Thurrock University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. He claimed that the negligence of Mr Rusz and his firm left him without evidence, and winning a basic claim but being left with five-figure costs, and that Mr Rusz held out his firm’s advice as coming from qualified lawyers, giving him a contract to sign which implied that people with legal qualifications worked there and that it was regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Defences that there was no contract or duty of care owed were dismissed by the court.

Unregulated and unqualified advisers have proliferated in England & Wales since severe restrictions were imposed on the availability of civil legal aid.