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Over before it’s even began: Two trainee solicitors removed from profession

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One was a fraudster, the other lied about storing firm documents

For many trainees, the thought of not being kept on as a newly qualified associate is a nightmare. But imagine being removed from the profession before you’ve even had a chance to qualify.

That was, recently, the fate of two trainees, one of which is Wasim Iqbal. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) was unable to strike Iqbal off the roll because he’s not yet on it, but it has issued a section 43 order. The order states Iqbal cannot work at a legal practice except with SRA permission.

The regulator’s decision was made after Iqbal took part in a fraud in which a number of defendants worked together to defraud victims of £426,000.

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ITV reports the authorities even found a bundle of fraudulent documents on Iqbal’s desk at Eastway Solicitors, the personal injury firm at which he was training. (The firm has since closed following an SRA intervention.) Iqbal was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment last year, when he was 27-years-old.

Also the recipient of a section 43 order of late is Matthew Francis.

Aspiring lawyer Francis was, until last year, training in Stroud at a firm called Winterbotham Smith Penley (WSP), which practises in areas including commercial disputes and property. While there, he installed three personal cloud drives onto the WSP network, this allowing him to store documents. Though he on two occasions denied storing firm data on his trio of drives, Francis was eventually found to have kept precedents and templates there.

Francis, who was employed at the firm from March 2016 to January 2017, is now unable to work in law apart from with prior permission.

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18 Comments

Anonymous

i dont understand the Matthew Francis one……so storing documents (precedents and templates) on a cloud drive with no actual data protection breach, no breach of confidentiality, no lost data …..this is an offence????? unless this is not the whole story…….

Anonymous

Well, he did lie about it on couple of occasions. I think this is the main problem there (from the SRA perspective).

Anonymous

That is true, the facts on the SRA link indicate that he was found to be dishonest, but the order is especially harsh. Can any practitioner clarify if and how using the personal cloud drives to store documents/precedents is against the rules?

I imagine several small high street firms/sole practitioners with lack of resources end up using personal drives/mobiles/laptops etc.

KTC

Persumingly, storing on personal cloud drives etc. was against the firm internal policies, i.e. the templates are business asset and they don’t want an employee taking it with them, and he lied about what he did when the film were suspicious.

alex’s long suffering mummy

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

it seems that this should have been dealt with internally and maybe with a training session on what data can be stored where …….. seems disproportionate to deal with it by involving the SRA……..

Anonymous

Storing valuable templates and precedents on a personal cloud device would almost certainly be against company policy for the reasons already stated, they are valuable and take time and money to perfect. A very useful commodity for someone leaving the firm to set up practice on their own. There is no suggestion that this was the intention of the indvidual here but of course it seems he deliberately lied about it, fearing loss of his training contract or other disciplinary action. He should have just owned up and took his punishment.

Anonymous

Most precedents are now similar across firms, and in some countries you can find firms’ documents publicly available (eg the US). I don’t think thats the real offence here.

Anonymous

The words in the headline before the colon could also apply to the LC staff members’ legal careers.

Anonymous

Nasty comment

Anonymous

But accurate

Trumpensturm

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

You included his name because it’s not a white name. You think it matters that it is not a white name because you are racist. You should feel ashamed of yourself. That you will not only emphasises what a weak person you are.

Anonymous

Personal storage device one raises some questions.

Presumably this was not so he could work on client matters at home if he didn’t have a remote login to access the case management system out-of-hours.

If he was taking templates for the sake of it then it’s relatively strange as PLC has templates for many documents you need.

JudgeMental

Seems a little harsh to me. At one firm I worked for we were actively encouraged to keep a precedents folder.

Michael OKane

Lawyers who work at firms are subject to discipline by the regulatory authorities, but most firms discourage their lawyers from making copies of documents relating to projects they’ve worked on. This creates a dilemma for the lawyer, because documents which prove that the lawyer acted properly will remain in the custody and control of the firm. So without firm cooperation, the lawyer cannot properly defend himself.

It’s nice to see the SRA finally wake up. They also regulate Nigel Bowe, a solicitor in the Bahamas, who despite a conviction for conspiracy to smuggle narcotics and a federal prison sentence in the U.S. somehow managed to stay on the rolls.

Anonymous

Even begun*

Good grief…

Anonymous

The reality of the situation is that almost every lawyer who moves from one firm to another, takes precedents with them. Even though most firms have a policy against it. Its really common.

Striking someone off the role for that seems unbelievably harsh. Even if he did lie about it to an internal disciplinary.

The decision seems really really harsh, unless there are some other circumstances the SRA haven’t published.

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