Supervisor took maternity leave without arranging appropriate support
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.