Lawyer Struck Off Over Signature Verification

| General

On 16th September 2022 news emerged of the decision handed down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority which made clear its intention to strike off a senior and vastly experienced lawyer. The order prohibits the lawyer from acting as a lawyer within the legal sector.

What Happened In The Case?

The lawyer had achieved the accolade of solicitor and she had more than three decades of expertise within the legal services industry. However, this was all to come crashing down when she had been approached by two clients, a married husband, and a wife. The husband was a businessman from South Africa. The case raised a few eyebrows to a greater or lesser extent when the facts came to light that the client’s private secretary was the daughter of the senior lawyer. Lawyers are ordinarily required to corroborate the paperwork by ensuring signatures had been properly executed, sworn or affirmed, and witnessed. However compelling evidence appeared to suggest that the documents had been signed in the period before either of the clients placed their signature on them.

The Truth Will Out

When the senior lawyer was confronted by the allegations she admitted placing the signatures upon the documents in the absence of the clients. The lawyer recollected that her close relative had requested her assistance in helping to arrange for the clients’ travel. The lawyer’s daughter also provided her with some populated documents which were complete with the signatures placed on them ready for the lawyer to certify and she did so. The lawyer claimed to be unaware that the wife had failed to sign the documentation and submitted that she believed that she was helping the husband and wife to proceed on a genuine journey. However, when faced with the SRA allegations the senior lawyer admitting to a glaring mistake. However, by way of mitigation she claimed that her actions were intended to be good and that all was above board in terms of the lawyer’s daughter’s involvement in the transaction with the clients.

After the transaction had taken place, all was calm for around four years until things resurfaced in 2020 when the husband and wife decided to divorce. Following this, the wife discovered some rather dubious paperwork appearing to have been adulterated by the hand of the husband. The wife communicated her insistence that she had played no part in the manipulation of the papers and alleged that the lawyer’s daughter and the now ex-husband had instigated a close personal intimate relationship between them and in a joint exercise between them had compiled the papers.

O What A Tangled Web We Weave…

The senior lawyer at the epicenter of the allegations attempted to evade the allegations by firstly suggesting to the representatives from the Regulatory authority that the grievance lacked any weight as they had been issued against her due to issues of a personal nature. She attempted to argue that her rogue conduct could be excused due to the presence of an affair between her close relative and her husband. Eventually, the net seemingly closed in on this seemingly rogue operator and she had no alternative but to admit to the Regulator that he main goals were to assist clients and generate business for the firm.

Pages Turned…Lessons Learned

This case should send the alarm bells ringing for all legal professionals and they should:

  • avoid getting into questionable relationships with close family members and clients
  • not be in a situation where they are certifying documents before they are signed and executed
  • be acting independently at all times
  • upholding the image of the firm
  • be telling truth and not seeking to cover up wrongdoing and
  • acting with honesty and integrity at all times.

If they do so they will mitigate the risk of being struck off by the Regulator and being held to account for their actions.

ASSESSING FIRMS

#BlakeMorgan #LClyde&CoLLP #CapsticksLLP #Hempsons #KingsleyNapleyLLP #RadcliffesLeBrasseur #BatesWells #CMS #DACBeachcroftLLP #FieldFisher #HerbertSmithFreehills #Russell-CookeLLP #BlackfordsLLP #CharlesRussellSpeechlysLLP #KeoughLLP #MurdochsSolicitors #StepehensonsSolicItorsLLP

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[SOURCE 1] Hyde, John – Solicitor struck off after ‘moment of madness’ verifying forged signature’ – Law Society Gazette - 16 September 2022 - Solicitor struck off after ‘moment of madness’ verifying forged signature | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 2] Rose, Neil – Solicitor struck off for parental consent affidavit deception – Legal Futures – 16 September 2022 - Solicitor struck off for parental consent affidavit deception - Legal Futures

[SOURCE 3] Solicitors Regulation Authority – Number 139441 – 14 December 2021 - SRA | Randall, Wendy - 139441 | Solicitors Regulation Authority

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