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SRA appeals tribunal’s decision to show mercy on junior lawyer whose hair fell out as she struggled to meet billing targets

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Received a suspended ban for faking documents

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to appeal to the High Court over the sanction imposed on a junior lawyer who forged letters.

Sovani James was handed a two-year ban, suspended for three years, and conditions on her practising certificate after she claimed she worked in a “culture of fear” which affected both her physical and mental health. The SRA has now confirmed it’s appealing the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s (SDT) sanction.

As we reported at the time, James was working at high street outfit McMillan Williams when she backdated letters in an attempt to show a clinical negligence case was progressing. She claimed the “toxic” firm adopted a “sudden focus on financial return on employees” and an “aggressive implementation” of billing targets.

The SDT’s judgment also included a letter sent to James from a member of management. It said:

“If you are not producing the required number of chargeable units, you are not doing the minimum work required by the firm. As deficits roll forward and do not reset to zero, your target will simply increase year on year, until such point as that target becomes unmanageable.”

Elsewhere James explained to the tribunal — often in shocking detail — the impact her workload had on her health. Her evidence said:

“[A]lmost daily I would be in tears due to the pressures I was under… The stress I was under was obvious towards the end of my time with the firm. I was clearly distressed and cried regularly. My hair started to fall out and I put on weight.”

James is one of many solicitors to have avoided being struck off by the SDT in recent weeks.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

Earlier this week, Legal Cheek reported that a former associate at national outfit TLT was handed a suspended ban after the tribunal noted that he “had suffered from mental health issues”. A “physically and emotionally drained” Peter Taylor “attempted to buy [himself] some time” by sending several misleading emails, according to the judgment.

Meanwhile, ex-Eversheds lawyer Daniel Smith was handed a 12-month suspension, suspended for two years, after he fabricated an email. On this occasion the SRA opted not to pursue dishonesty charges after Smith submitted evidence which showed he was suffering from a medical condition redacted by the tribunal, and “that impaired his judgment”.

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13 Comments

Anonymous

If you’re reading this and considering a career in law, please save yourself. Explore another avenue. This one is paved with stress, misery, and crumbs from the digestives that Irwin Mitchell trainees receive as payment.

(47)(0)

Anonymous

I certainly pursued other ventures, and now look at me!

(2)(1)

Anonymous

And guess who has to pay the bills?

(1)(1)

Anonymous

The Sra look really bad on this so they may as well appeal. Perhaps a high court judge will give their image a much needed leg up with a victory.

The justice of mercy is not applicable.

(2)(13)

Just Anonymous

The SRA should spend less time hounding this poor individual.

And more time pursuing those employers who treat their law firm like a battery farm.

(73)(2)

Anonymous

Do any of the overworked sols ever sue? There’s a duty of care operating.

(17)(1)

Anonymous

True, but there will always be fear of reprisals. A solicitor who brings a claim in open court against an employer firm would likely have red flags following them to every future interview. Unless they’re in a position to be able to consider a solo practice, I doubt any of them ever would.

(16)(1)

Kirkland 3PQE Turbocock

Loooooool wat a weak beta. Only alpha kunts apply

(2)(9)

Anonymous

Seriously, what vile scum fills the ranks of the SRA?

It’s like they’re really trying to be the shitty Disney villains that never had a change of heart.

Counterclaim for harassment already and get these gimps to go piss on the boots of the McMillan Williams partners.

(20)(1)

10 yrs PQE crime

Do something more interesting!

Still doing crime.

Still loving it.

NB best done outside London if you want a reasonable standard of living!

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Completely disgusting. Common SRA.do your job and get rid of these greedy corrupt and positively criminal employers.
This poor girl has worked her guts out and this is the way she is treated.
Harassment is a crime. Practice what you preach or is the sra as corrupt as the rest of the judicial system???

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I feel for this poor girl

(1)(1)

Anonymous

What? Someone is stressed at work, they are under pressure and they don’t know what to do… that is just real life. Grow a pair and either stand up or shut up.

I can’t believe the cry babies that now inhabit the legal profession. I wonder what clients think? I know I have just lost confidence.

(1)(3)

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