Zoom Lawyer Rebuked

| General

A recent Solicitors Regulation Authority decision was food for thought for emerging and established legal professionals.

What Happened In The Case?

A client had instructed a legal services provider regarding forthcoming legal proceedings. During the case management stage the judge permitted the distribution of proceedings via Zoom platform and a separate court was booked permitting the public and the media to observe the substantive trial due to the CoronaVirus crisis. However, the court refused a request for transmission of legal proceedings via an external, real-time scrip or stream because if the judge allowed such a measure it would be equivalent to an expansion outside of the main court. 

The Results Are In?

Following the notification of the incident to the regulator by the provider of legal services, it issued a penalty to the legal professional. 

At the Door of the Court

Just before the substantive proceedings were to commence the legal professional seemingly wrongly informed her respective client that they were permitted to distribute the Zoom hyperlink to those taking part with other parties intending to watch online and confirmed the advice after a secure password had been assigned. 

Turning Point

After this advice had been provided by the legal professional and seemingly in reliance upon said advice that such hyperlinks could be distributed by their respective clients with external parties who wanted the best seat in the house for the televised stream. Over time, the judge became aware that unauthorised persons seemed to be watching the proceedings via the online Zoom platformwithout the court’s consent in locations such as:

  • Russia
  • The United States of America and 
  • Cyprus. 

Regrets I’ve Had A Few…

Half-a-week, after the legal professional realized that this incorrect advice had been provided to her respective clients and the decision to distribute the hyperlink, was made by the clients she sent a piece of correspondence to the court claiming that she had no recollection of the persons or the method of obtaining the belief. However, to her credit, she fully and openly admitted that her decision to act in this way was decidedly incorrect. She demonstrated regret for her actions and claimed her actions were:

  • reckless
  • unintended and 
  • unintentional.

She also sought leniency from the judge by emphasizing that the approach to take regarding the Zoom hyperlink was perplexing. Further down the track, the legal professional described her decision to advise that the hyperlink could be distributed was taken following a consultation with a senior staff member with accountability for the file about the security of broadcasting the legal proceedings on the internet platform. 

The legal professional pointed to a potential breakdown of communication and seemingly realized that the person occupying the upper echelon of the firm had advised to not allow the sharing of the internet hyperlink.

What Did The Court Say?

During this, the legal professional inexplicably permitted a confidential internet hyperlink allowing access to the Zoom platform to be distributed to show proceedings in real-time in overseas jurisdictions. Shortly after the provider of the legal services discovered the disclosure of the Zoom hyperlink it made a notification to the Divisional Court and industry regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The judge reviewed the evidence and acknowledged that the events which had occurred did not indicate an intention to break the case management orders.

Lessons Learned

In light of this case legal professionals need to be communicating clearly and exercising great caution when faced with situations where courts impose bans on Zoom hyperlinks being distributed to third parties and follow the case management orders regarding this issue as fully as reasonably possible. 

ASSESSING FIRMS

#BlakeMorganLLP #Clyde&CoLLP #CapsticksLLP #Hempsons #KingsleyNapleyLLP #RadcliffeLeBrrasseurLLP #BatesWells #BrownJacobson #CMS #DACBeachcroft #Fieldfisher #HerbertSmithFreehills #RussellCookeLLP #BlackfordsLLP #KeoghsLLP 

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1] Hyde, John – Partner rebuked for telling clients they could share court Zoom link – 17 August 2022 – Law Society Gazette - Partner rebuked for telling clients they could share court Zoom link | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 2] Hyde, John – City giant self-reports to SRA after trial streamed live on Zoom – Law Society Gazette – 7 August 2022 - City giant self-reports to SRA after trial streamed live on Zoom | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 3] Gubarev & Anor v Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd & Anor [2020] EWHC 2167 (QB)

[SOURCE 4] Civil Litigation Brief – Courtesy and Correspondence: “Nothing Was Said To Acknowledge or Accept the Judge’s Criticism of the High-Handed Maner In Which The Associate Solicitor Had Sought To Tell The Court How The Trial Was Going To Be Conducted” - COURTESY AND CORRESPONDENCE: “NOTHING WAS SAID TO ACKNOWLEDGE OR ACCEPT THE JUDGE’S CRITICISM OF THE HIGH-HANDED MANNER IN WHICH THE ASSOCIATE SOLICITOR HAD SOUGHT TO TELL THE COURT HOW THE TRIAL WAS GOING TO BE CONDUCTED” – Civil Litigation Brief

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