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Tribunal strikes off NQ solicitor for dishonesty, then fines his firm for lack of supervision

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Same week young lawyer struggling under weight of 170 cases thrown out of profession

sra

Another newly-qualified (NQ) solicitor has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for dishonesty, but this time his firm was also subject to proceedings.

The tribunal ruled that “dishonesty had been alleged and proved” in the matter of Joseph Paul Gill, a 30-year-old solicitor at Bolton-based firm Cain & Cochran. According to the SDT report, the criminal firm had trained Gill and then taken him on as an associate responsible for setting up an employment department.

Ten allegations were made against Gill by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which was represented by Littleton Chambers’ Adam Solomon at the hearing.

Among these, Gill — represented by Hugo Lodge of 7 Bedford Row — was accused of telling his employer he had emailed a client care letter out when he hadn’t and, to cover up his omission, fabricated a letter and covering email. Other allegations include failing to attend a judicial mediation on behalf of his client without good reason and failing to provide the required advice to his client.

Eight out of ten of the allegations were proved, with the SDT noting:

[Gill’s] motivation for his misconduct did not appear to be financial. It appeared that he wanted to progress and enhance his role and did not want to be criticised. He had been completely incompetent and had become like a ‘rabbit caught in headlights’. Dishonesty had been alleged and proved. The misconduct had been deliberate and repeated and had continued over a period of time.

Interestingly, Cain & Cochran was also named as a party to proceedings. Represented by Doughty Street counsel Tom Stevens and accused of failing to operate an adequate system of supervision for Gill, the SDT found that:

[T]he lack of supervision lasted from when [Gill] commenced at the firm until he left. The supervision that did occur was reactive and not appropriate for a junior solicitor.

It did, however, note Cain & Cochran had now implemented a “far more robust” system of supervision. The firm was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

Readers may assume that with a finding of misconduct made against Cain & Cochran, the tribunal would go easy on Gill. However, while it did take his lack of supervision into account when debating the solicitor’s punishment, it found:

He had panicked and found himself out of his depth, but he had not sought help from his supervisor and instead he had put on a veneer that everything was alright and had represented to a director that a client care letter had been sent when it had not been.

Gill was duly struck off the roll.

This news comes just one day after Legal Cheek reported a junior associate struggling with 170 cases had come before the SDT.

Personal injury solicitor Paul Andrew Smith was found to have fabricated documents and paid client compensation out of his own pocket.

Though his law firm, Williamsons, was not party to proceedings, a strong sense of sympathy for Smith’s situation came through in our comments section. One commenter said this was “shocking conduct by the firm”, another argued it “seems more like the firm’s failing than his”, while one asked why Williamsons was not penalised.

Despite the mitigating factors in Smith’s case, the SDT said the only sanction available to it was a striking off.

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