Manager Banned Over Money Shortfall
In May 2023, industry regulatory body the Solicitors Regulation Authority prevented a colleague from operating as a non-qualified person by way of section 43 and section 99 orders under the Solicitors Act 1974. The SRA appears to have taken the matter so seriously because the colleague seems to have identified client account discrepancies caused by her errors. However, independent evidence demonstrated that the colleague had cunningly attempted to make up the financial client account deficit using her financial resources. The SDT imposed an order restricting her ability to operate in the profession. The ruling means that if the colleague ever desires to return to the profession, she will be obliged to request permission from the SRA.
What Happened In The Case?
The colleague was providing her services to the provider in her non-qualified capacity. She appeared to have been happily providing her professional services for over one decade and a half. Her working activities seemed to involve the administering of files for persons who are in the position of having an appointed deputy, who was then overseen by the Office of the Public Guardian. However, the SRA received evidence suggesting that a file she had conduct of involving a benefit and rent arrears-related matter on behalf of a client presented the impression that the colleague had done little to advance the case.
This solely would have rung alarm bells with the SRA. However, evidence indicated that the colleague had spotted the error she made, the accounting deficit emanating from it, and the perceptive correlative and causative link between these errors and the deficits. Normally colleagues should remember their SRA duties of honesty and integrity by reporting such a discrepancy to senior colleagues. However, this colleague appears to have ignored this and decided to plug the deficit connected with her financial resources. The conduct exhibited by the colleague does not appear to have been an isolated incident and appeared to have been happening regularly.
Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out…
When the SRA discovered the colleague’s behavior it probed her conduct and removed her permission to operate in the legal profession curtailing her ability to provide her professional services to any provider of legal services or client. The SRA took the matter so seriously because of the perilous situation the client found themselves in and the lengthy duration over which the behavior occurred. Attention was then turned to the legal professional involved with overseeing the colleague. He was brought to book by the SRA. It uncovered evidence suggesting that he had neglected to provide oversight to his colleague on a file belonging to a client who was described as vulnerable.
What Did the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal Say?
The SRA was damning over the conduct exhibited in this case commenting that this was a dereliction of duty from a legal professional who was accountable to oversee the activities of the workforce under his jurisdiction. His oversight resulted in the increased risk of clients suffering harm.
All reading this should absorb the message from the SRA that it will not accept the following behavior from legal professionals including:
- senior lawyers providing inadequate oversight to junior non-qualified staff
- not reporting identified mistakes to their line manager or senior colleagues
- covering up any mistakes
- making up a shortfall in their financial resources and
- not acting with honesty and integrity.
If they comply with the rules, it will reduce the risk of being rebuked.
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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