Legal Professional Shown Door Over Forged Signature
In March 2023 the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal removed a legal professional from the esteemed Roll of Solicitors after independent evidence emerged which tended to suggest that she had falsely represented that signatures on documents belonged to a client. However, when put under the evidential microscope it became clear that she had made the fatal blunder of forging the signatures to provide a misleading impression. There were also accusations against the legal professional that she had removed financial resources from the client’s account in violation of the Solicitor Accounts Rules. The Regulator wanted to punish the legal professional for her unprofessional conduct and make an example of her by removing her power to operate via her practising certificate.
What Happened In The Case?
The lawyer had accrued three-and-a-half-decades of experience in the legal profession and she seems to have climbed to the prominent position of Associate solicitor with a provider of legal services. However, her career trajectory suddenly appears to have nose-dived as evidence was discovered providing an indication of her unprofessional conduct. She had received instructions from a trust. Two cheques had been paid to the UK Government tax arm the HMRC totalling approximately six-and-a-half thousand pounds. All from a surface level appeared to be fine. However, the regulatory authorities appear to have grown suspicious when they became aware that the legal professional at the centre of the proceedings had forged the signature of some persons who had responsibility for administering the trust. When the regulatory authorities delved further into the matter, they discovered evidence suggesting that the legal professional had forged a signature on a financial instrument. The legal professional also presented the image that client monies had been paid from the client account in connection with tax payments made to the Government tax office on behalf of the trust.
Following this, there was nothing to see here. However, the case deteriorated when she found employment with another provider and evidence suggested that the Associate had permitted financial resources of approximately nine-thousand pounds to be removed from the client’s account violating the Solicitors Account Rules. Additionally, it suggested that the associate had dishonestly used the client’s resources and diverted them to HMRC.
What Did the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Say?
The panel wanted to make an example of the Associate. It commented that the pattern of behaviour she exhibited over a long period was part of her working practises and was dishonest.
Legal professionals should strongly consider the facts of this case and take on board the hard-learned lessons stemming from it in this case by taking the following pre-emptive steps:
- remembering that when clients pay in monies to the providers of legal services carrying out work on their behalf, it belongs to the client
- financial resources held in accounts is sacrosanct
- it cannot be touched by legal professionals without the consent of the client
- think twice before considering incorrectly representing signatures written on financial documents of an instrumental nature
- there is a strong likelihood that their practising certificate may be removed and
- potential for such persons to lose their ability to practise.
If such legal professionals conduct themselves in such a non-cavalier manner, they will have a stronger likelihood of keeping hold of their practising certificate and not losing their permission to continue operating in the profession. It will also avoid the need for the Solicitors Regulation Authority to decide to remove the legal professional from the industry.
If you as a reader have experienced something similar, or have an opposing point of view, please kindly leave a comment on the article or contact us.
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