A SOLICITOR who forged another lawyer's signature on a legal document has been thrown out of the profession.

Philip Lowe, 42, formerly of Low Bank, Burnley, signed papers so the estate of a client could be handled quickly, the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard.

When inspectors raided his firm they found he had been using client's money for his own benefit by keeping the cash in his own bank account.

Lowe, who, the hearing was told, now sold paint for a living, tried to stage a cover up by wrongly billing clients to balance his books.

He has now lost his family, his firm and his home because of his dishonesty, the hearing was told.

Lowe who ran his own firm in Main Street, Cross Hills, Keig-hley, was cleared of fraud at a Bradford Crown Court trial but admitted using a false ins-trument and was fined £515.

Ian Ryan, for the Law Society, told the hearing investigators found a £35,332 black hole' in Lowe''s books when they raided the firm on July 4 2005.

Money which should have been paid into the client account had been deposited in the firm's account which were controlled solely by Lowe.

The tribunal heard £6,500 belonging to a customer had been kept in the office account for over two years. Lowe falsely billed a customer in a £3,672 attempt to balance the books and told investigators: I panicked'.

"It is a very serious matter indeed," said Mr Ryan. "The respondent's behaviour was dishonest, using clients' funds for his own benefit and misleading officers from the Law Society."

Lowe admitted failing to keep his books properly written up, a client's money for his own benefit, raising costs which could not be justified, misleading investigators and failing to give a client advance information.

Gareth Edwards, defending, said Lowe was now bankrupt and had lost his business, his family and his home.

"He has paid a very, very, heaving price for his foolishness.

"It is not an exaggeration to say he has lost everything," Mr Edwards said. "His marriage is over, his wife has left him and is divorcing him."

Mr Edwards said the family home in Low Bank, is to be sold "Mr Lowe made inquiries within the local legal community as to the possibility of references but was not met with any positive responsive," the lawyer added.

"He is now a representative selling paint and living in rented accommodation."

Tribunal chairman David Leverton said: "The public has to trust solicitors implicitly over financial dealings and any breach of that trust inevitably has serious repercussions."

Lowe was struck off and will also pay costs in a sum to be fixed.