Lawyer loses lectureship over student appeals business

Daniel Sokol’s honorary post at King’s College London withdrawn

January 2, 2014

Source: Russell Sach

Terminated: Daniel Sokol’s contract with King’s will be ended in February

King’s College London has terminated the contract of an honorary senior lecturer who set up a business offering legal advice to students who wish to challenge their exam results.

Daniel Sokol will cease being honorary senior lecturer in medical ethics and law at the institution from 26 February after less than a year in the role.

The university said that it was concerned about any perceived association between King’s and his Alpha Academic Appeals business, which charges students between £500 and £1,000 for help in examination appeals.

The university took the decision to terminate Dr Sokol’s contract after Times Higher Education published articles in which the barrister defended his company against claims that it was profiteering from the fears of students, and encouraging a litigious culture in the academy. He received a letter from King’s on 26 November 2013, giving three months’ notice.

“Upon reading the letter, one might have been forgiven for thinking that I had set up a brothel for students, with an endless supply of class A drugs,” Dr Sokol says in a letter published in today’s THE, in which he claims that universities that prohibit legal representation for students are denying them a fair hearing.

“The wisdom or otherwise of King’s’ decision is of no general interest, but the attitude it reflects – the apparent distaste for students seeking paid legal help to appeal against university decisions they consider to be unfair – should be.”

In his letter to THE, Dr Sokol describes the missive he received from King’s as referring to lawyers targeting students and charging hefty fees for poor service.

“There is a good reason why students who believe they have been unfairly treated turn to lawyers,” he says. “They know that, by and large, they will get better representation.”

A spokeswoman for King’s said that the letter had expressed concern about “the activities of law firms seeking to target students in the area of complaints and appeals” when students can access free representation through the Academic Advice Service of the university’s students’ union.

“We have made clear to Dr Sokol our concerns about the perceived association between the College and his appeals business, which the College does not endorse.

“We have explained to him that in light of that, we no longer believe that a relationship with Dr Sokol is beneficial to the College in general or the School of Medicine in particular,” she said.

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