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Aspiring solicitor’s training contract deemed worthless after she was left unsupervised for 15 months

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Supervisor took maternity leave without arranging appropriate support

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An aspiring lawyer’s training contract has been deemed valueless after she was left unsupervised for over 15 months, it has emerged.

According to a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) decision published yesterday, the trainee solicitor — simply known as “Ms R” — was informed that her training contract was not “adequate” after her supervisor took maternity leave and failed to arrange appropriate supervision in her absence.

The supervisor, Louise Thomson, who was admitted to the roll in 2006, worked for an unnamed company as an “in-house legal consultant”.

Ms R commenced her training contract in 2011, shortly after the company — and Thomson — gained SRA training approval. Later that same year, with Ms R only a few months into her training contract, Thomson took maternity leave.

It was at this point that issues arose. With Thomson neglecting to line-up cover to help the rookie, Ms R appears to have been left to her own devices, undertaking “legal work” and holding herself out as a “trainee solicitor”.

Furthermore, during Thomson’s substantial absence, she failed to renew her practising certificate. With the SRA revoking her existing practising certificate — which is standard procedure when it’s not renewed — this rendered Thomson “ineligible” as Ms R’s supervisor as of August 2012.

Thomson finally renewed her practising certificate in February 2013, returning to work shortly after.

Realising that her absence had severely impacted on Ms R’s quality of training, Thomson reported the issue to her regulator, enquiring as to whether any training extension would be necessary in order for Ms R to qualify.

Unhappy with Thomson’s conduct, the SRA opted to take disciplinary action.

After receiving an apology, the SRA accepted that Thomson’s actions were neither “intentional or wilful”. Reaching a regulatory settlement agreement, Thomson — who provided medical evidence which the SRA “accepts adversely affected her judgement and ability to comply with her regulatory obligations at the relevant times” — avoided a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and the possibility of more severe sanctions.

Despite Thomson being fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,685.70, many might argue that the real punishment was reserved for Ms R. Having her training contract rendered null and void — an adjudicator of the SRA decided that the entire period of Ms R’s employment as a trainee solicitor with her company did not qualify as adequate training — she will have had to start the two-year process all over again.

So basically a law student’s worst nightmare. Read the full SRA decision here.

21 Comments

Anonymous

I think she should have mentioned it to someone… Surely being a solicitor means you react quickly to situations. Not simply sit on your hands for 15 months…

(49)(2)

Anonymous

I thought this at first…. but after reading the full article I get the impression that there was nobody else within the in house legal department? Nevertheless, the SRA and BSB clearly specify the requirement of supervision for trainee solicitors and pupils. She should have already been familiar with these and should have raised concerns, even if it meant delaying her training contract.

Working without supervision for 15 months is very dangerous in regards to professional negligence and failure to act within the best interest of your clients.

(2)(2)

Wotuonabowtm8

‘Within’ the best interests?

(1)(2)

Anonymous

What a disgrace. It’s not the trainee’s fault. Name the company!

(23)(2)

Anon

I wanted to find out the company too, did a quick search for all louise thompsons who are solicitors as per the link below. None were called to the roll on 1 June 2006 oddly enough.

http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/search/results?Type=1&Name=Louise+Thompson&IncludeNlsp=True&Pro=True&parameters=%2C1%3BAPL%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPUB%2C0%3B%2C1%3BADV%2C0%3B%2C1%3BAGR%2C0%3B%2C1%3BAVI%2C0%3B%2C1%3BBAN%2C1%3B%2C1%3BBEN%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCHA%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCHI%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCLI%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCOL%2C1%3B%2C1%3BPCO%2C1%3B%2C1%3BCCL%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCOS%2C1%3B%2C1%3BCOM%2C1%3B%2C1%3BCON%2C1%3B%2C1%3BCSU%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCSF%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCSG%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCUT%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCTR%2C1%3B%2C1%3BPRE%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCFI%2C1%3B%2C1%3BCRD%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCRF%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCRG%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCRJ%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCRL%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCRM%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCRS%2C0%3B%2C1%3BCRO%2C1%3B%2C1%3BDEB%2C0%3B%2C1%3BDTR%2C1%3B%2C1%3BDEF%2C0%3B%2C1%3BDRC%2C0%3B%2C1%3BDRO%2C1%3B%2C1%3BEDU%2C0%3B%2C1%3BEMP%2C1%3B%2C1%3BENE%2C0%3B%2C1%3BENV%2C0%3B%2C1%3BEUN%2C0%3B%2C1%3BFDS%2C0%3B%2C1%3BFAM%2C0%3B%2C1%3BFAL%2C0%3B%2C1%3BFMC%2C0%3B%2C1%3BFME%2C0%3B%2C1%3BFML%2C0%3B%2C1%3BFPL%2C0%3B%2C1%3BFIS%2C0%3B%2C1%3BHRI%2C0%3B%2C1%3BIMA%2C0%3B%2C1%3BIML%2C0%3B%2C1%3BIMM%2C0%3B%2C1%3BIMG%2C0%3B%2C1%3BIMN%2C0%3B%2C1%3BITE%2C1%3B%2C1%3BINS%2C1%3B%2C1%3BIUR%2C1%3B%2C1%3BIPR%2C1%3B%2C1%3BJRW%2C0%3B%2C1%3BJRL%2C0%3B%2C1%3BLCO%2C1%3B%2C1%3BLRE%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPOA%2C0%3B%2C1%3BLIC%2C1%3B%2C1%3BLIV%2C0%3B%2C1%3BLIS%2C0%3B%2C1%3BLIT%2C0%3B%2C1%3BMAR%2C0%3B%2C1%3BMED%2C1%3B%2C1%3BMHE%2C0%3B%2C1%3BMHL%2C0%3B%2C1%3BMAA%2C1%3B%2C1%3BMIL%2C0%3B%2C1%3BNDI%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPEN%2C1%3B%2C1%3BPIN%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPIR%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPLA%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPRZ%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPCI%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPCP%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPCT%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPCW%2C0%3B%2C1%3BPNE%2C0%3B%2C1%3BTAX%2C0%3B%2C1%3BTAC%2C1%3B%2C1%3BTAE%2C0%3B%2C1%3BTAH%2C1%3B%2C1%3BTAM%2C0%3B%2C1%3BTAP%2C0%3B%2C1%3BTAT%2C0%3B+

(1)(3)

Nobody

Louise Thomson, not Thompson

(5)(0)

Anon

Didn’t search hard enough. Here, doesn’t mention a firm/company.

http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/person/241760/louise-thomson

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Why isn’t it the trainees fault? What happened to using your common sense and raising the lack of supervision?

(5)(3)

Barwoman

I’ve never been a trainee but as a pupil I certainly felt severely restricted in raising issues given that chambers had all the power. Plus, she may not have fully appreciated the requirements in respect of supervision – she did what she was told. I wouldn’t blame her, I blame them.

(20)(0)

snowball

as a trainee working in house this person will also be an employee and may well have a ground for a damages claim against her “employer” for breach of contract. One wonders why the trainee did not notice her boss was absent, who the f**k was giving her work and checking it????

(10)(0)

Anonymous

Presumably she was getting a lot of her boss’s work sent to her and kind of slipped into doing a lot of legal advice. It must be quite a small company or another lawyer would have noticed the problem. Probably everyone around them thought that someone else was taking care of it or that there was a proper plan in place. Still – very dim of the girl not to consider for 14 months if it was a problem unless she was told otherwise.

(5)(2)

Barwoman

I would have thought she has an unanswerable claim for breach of contract and hope she will be fully compensated.

(9)(0)

Deed U No

I feeel her pain
Perpetual paralegal

(7)(1)

Sandman

Presumably Ms R will also have a claim for damages – it is called a “training” contract, which kind of implies that training will be given.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

I see no justification for anonymising the company. Someone should ask the SRA to give the name.

(7)(0)

FashionandFrappes.com

The SRA gave the company approval for training contracts with one solicitor in the company? I am sorry but the SRA really needs to be a better regulator in that case!

(7)(0)

Anon

The SRA doesn’t want to regulate anything. They want to become a test provider.

(2)(0)

The Lyle

This started in 2011?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

She is a lawyer, but she aspired to be a SOLICITOR.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Only idiots can believe her unsupervised time should be credited as supervised. I feel terribly sorry for her, but one cannot be trained properly in the absence of a training supervisor. The firm, if the article correct, should be ashamed.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I am not certain that she would have an answerable claim in damages. It appears to me that it would not be unreasonable for a court or tribunal to find that she had affirmed the contract given the passage of time. This is compounded by the fact that the length of the contract itself was only for two years.

(1)(0)

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