SRA takes unusual swipe at two junior lawyers
In two rare separate cases, a paralegal and a trainee have been banned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) from working for solicitors or in a solicitor-run practice without its permission.
In an SRA decision published this week, Thomas German — a former litigation paralegal at three-solicitor practice Ageas Law — admitted breaching client confidentiality and “failing to encourage equality of opportunity” during his employment at the firm between 30 June 2014 and 4 March 2015.
Specifically, the SRA’s published decision regarding German stated he admitted the breach of client confidentiality:
[B]y sending emails attaching client documents to his partner at another firm of solicitors when this was not required for the proper and effective representation of his clients.
It went on to say that German had sent:
[T]wo emails to his partner in which he made comments that failed to encourage equality of opportunity and respect for diversity.
The SRA found that the paralegal at the alternative business structure firm — which has two offices in Cardiff and Bristol — had breached the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct for these actions.
He has now been banned from working for a solicitor or in a solicitor’s practice without the SRA’s consent.
This is a pretty unusual step for the regulator to take. The vast majority of SRA decisions and those of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, the separate body which hears cases of breaches, relate to solicitors rather than more junior members of staff.
In a separate case from this week, former trainee Mantas Montvydas has also been banned from working in a legal practice without the SRA’s say-so.
He was training at Hull firm Ward Legal, which was closed by the SRA in December last year following the regulator’s finding that:
[T]here is reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Mr March, manager of Ward Legal (UK) Limited and on the part of an employee of the recognised body, Mr Montvydas.
Montvydas was found to have “made improper transfers from the firm’s client account to the office account, misled the forensic investigation officer and overcharged on two probate matters.”
German has an internal right of appeal to the findings and both juniors have a statutory right of review to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.