A law clerk who pretended to be a solicitor to pocket nearly £7,000 from unsuspecting clients was banned from the legal profession today.

Brian Ferguson falsely claimed he was a lawyer working for a respected firm who could act in a complicated property dispute.

But the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Ferguson had never worked as a lawyer for the firm Harringtons, based in Ditchling Road, Brighton.

The legal worker had acted as an occasional agent for the practice but falsely claimed he was a partner in the firm and was authorised to represent them.

Ferguson received three separate payments totalling £6,750, including a £5,000 cheque paid into his personal account during 2003 and claimed they were for legal expenses.

Shocked lawyers at Harringtons discovered the scam when a client complained and they immediately reported Ferguson to the Law Society.

Peter Cadman, for the Law Society, said that Ferguson had admitted retaining cash "for his own purposes".

He added: "He misrepresented his status to clients. They thought he was a solicitor."

Ferguson has since been declared bankrupt and his home in Medina Villas, Hove, has been repossessed the tribunal was told.

He did not appear at the disciplinary hearing in central London today.

The tribunal heard that repeated attempts to trace Ferguson, including adverts in the The Argus and Daily Mail, had proved unsuccessful.

Mr Cadman said the Law Society were seeking a Section 43 order to be imposed on Ferguson to "regulate and control" his future in the profession.

He said: "It is improper conduct."

The tribunal agreed to impose the order which means no legal firm can now employ Ferguson without permission from the Law Society.

Chairman Jeremy Barnecutt said: "We have no hesitation in making the order you seek."

Ferguson was also ordered to pay costs of £7,720.