Legal Executive Barred Over Signature

| General

On 26th September 2022 news emerged of a Solicitors Regulatory Authority decision preventing a legal executive from practicing in the legal profession.

What Happened In The Case?

The legal professional operated out of a provider of legal services based in the prestigious City of York for the entire duration of the previous period of two decades and specialized predominantly in the fields of wills and probate, administration of estates, and powers of attorneys. All appeared to have been proceeding well and the legal professional had developed a vast array of expertise in these areas. However, the problems for him appeared to have begun around half a decade ago in May 2017 when he received instructions to put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney for a client, and during the transaction, he approached the client’s physician requesting a dated and signed certificate in respect of the Power of Attorney. 

The legal professional then liaised with the client for instructions and the client proceeded to sign the Lasting Power of Attorney. In normal circumstances, a client would sign the Lasting Power of Attorney documents and this should be carried out before the doctor’s involvement in the signature of the respective documents. However, during the course of events in this particular case, the legal professional realized that the client instructing him had not signed it before the doctor. 

Decisions Decisions Decisions…

The Legal professional discovered what had happened and proceeded to insert a date and positioned it next to the execution clause where the client had signed. This was to provide the false misleading feeling that it was signed in the previous three-week time period.

What Did The Solicitors Regulation Authority Say?

Usually, the Office of the Public Guardian independently considers applications for Lasting Powers of Attorney, and this case was no exception. It examined the submitted in forensic detail and highlighted a major discrepancy in the paperwork. It transpired that the legal professional had revised the Lasting Power of Attorney forms and requested for a physician to insert their respective signature in the execution clause again. Evidence was disclosed that the client had inserted their signature on a future occasion and the legal professional had added the incorrect date next to it to give the misleading image that it had been added previously. Following on from the completion of the paperwork the Legal Professional applied the Lasting Power of Attorney to the Office of the Public Guardian.

Some five years later in March 2022 when the provider of legal services was conducting an internal file review it discovered the signature discrepancies. The internal investigation into the files appears to have been prompted by some concerns which had been raised by local government authorities about the Power of Attorney transaction. The investigation highlighted several signatures which had been inserted retrospectively. Due to the seriousness of the allegations faced by the legal professional the provider of the legal services handed down a final written warning and they proceeded to notify the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The Regulator was damning over his behavior finding that the legal professional had inserted the date to persuade interested parties that the client was first to sign the paperwork when this was not the case.

Lessons Learned?

Lawyers should be following the following strategy:

  • Ensuring they are following the correct procedures concerning Powers of Attorney
  • acting truthfully and ethically at all times
  • not manually inserting signatures into documents making it appear they had been signed by clients.

 

ASSESSING FIRMS

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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1] Solicitors Regulation Authority – Robert Dallison – 6 September 2022 – Solicitors Regulation Authority - SRA | Robert Dallison - 7012402 | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[SOURCE 2] Hyde, John – Legal executive of 20 years banned for backdating signatures – 26 September 2022 – Law Society Gazette - Legal executive of 20 years banned for backdating signatures | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 3] Mental Capacity Act 2005

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