Lawyer Banned Over Air Miles

| General


In early October 2022 news emerged of a decision handed down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to a legal secretary who had misappropriated the travel and accommodation account of the legal services business that provider her with employment.

What Happened In The Case?

The case concerned an employee who had been employed in her capacity as a legal secretary for a leading provider of legal services for a period of around eighteen and a half years from 2001 to 2019. All appear to have been progressing well and the legal professional appears to have had a successful career that lasted over a generation. However, time was eventually called on her seemingly successful career when the legal service provider appears to have discovered some compellable evidence against the legal professional dating back to November 2015 and continuing to July 2019.

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out…

The legal firm employing the legal secretary discovered documentary evidence purporting to demonstrate that the colleague had incorrectly abused the solicitor’s accounts which were used by the legal services provider and specifically related to travel via airplane. When the legal services provider examined the granular detail of the accounts more forensically they discovered some alarming trends. They identified from the data for example that the legal professional had falsely appropriated the respective air miles and hotel accommodation for her personal use, relatives, and companions without the permission, agreement, or sanction of the court. When the full extent of the legal representative was revealed and was out in the public domain for all to see, it demonstrated that around eighty flights and flight reservations had been made more than fifty times.

What Did The Solicitors Regulation Authority Say?

When the industry regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority reviewed, considered, and analyzed the evidence submitted by both sides it was particularly damning of the legal professional’s conduct regarding the flight and accommodation travel arrangements. It described that the behavior was cunning, deceptive, and deceitful. The esteemed panel charged with administering the matter handed down a decision that required the legal secretary to shell out for the regulator’s cost in the amount of six hundred pounds which had seemingly been accrued during the course of the inquiry into the legal services provider’s behavior.

By way of punishment, the Solicitors Regulation Authority handed down a ruling which had the effect of preventing, barring, and restricting the legal professional from being employed and/or receiving any form of wage from or being appointed to the position of manager with a provider of legal services.

Pages Turned…Lessons Learned?

All levels of staff operating within the legal profession should be seeking to reduce of the probability of facing restrictions imposed on their practice by the Solicitors Regulation Authority by:

  • maintaining the confidence of their employers and the perception of the wider profession 
  • ensuring they are complying with the rules, standards, and processes under the Solicitors Accounts Rules
  • keeping their integrity in every situation
  • avoiding finding themselves in situations where they are making transactions involving travel such as to hotels and commercial airlines which could be called into question at a later stage.
  • steering clear away from dishonest practices whereby behavior could be interpreted to be dishonest on the evidence available and
  • upholding the image of the legal profession in the eyes of the general public.

Legal professionals should consider following this strategy if they want to avoid falling foul of the regulator and want to hold onto their positions in the legal services sector.

Written by Adam Green

ASSESSING FIRMS

#DLAPiper #CliffordChance #HoganLovells #Linklaters #Allen&Overy #Latham&Watkins #FreshfieldBrukhausDeringer #Ashurst #NortonRoseFulbright

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1] Solicitors Regulation Authority – Amoy Clarke – 23 September 2022 - SRA | Clarke, Amoy - 668991 | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[SOURCE 2] Gazette Reporter – Legal secretary barred for abuse of City firm’s air miles - 4th October 2022 - Legal secretary barred for abuse of City firm’s air miles | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 3] Section 99 – How we regulate non-authorized persons – 17 November 2021 – Solicitors Regulation Authority - SRA | Guidance | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[SOURCE 4] Section 43 applications and order – Weightmans - Section 43: Unqualified persons and the SRA | Weightmans


 

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