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‘Vulnerable’ junior lawyers need greater protection from ‘toxic and uncaring’ law firms

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JLD pens open letter to regulator in wake of controversial whistleblower decision

The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has called on the regulator to do more to protect “vulnerable” trainees and junior solicitors from “toxic and uncaring” working environments.

In an open letter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the JLD expressed deep concerns that rookie lawyers were not being afforded the relevant levels of protection under the regulator’s current approach.

The letter, published yesterday, goes on to cite two recent high-profile rulings by the High Court and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

Sovani James, a former junior solicitor at national law firm McMillan Williams, was suspended last year for forging legal documents in a bid to show that a client’s case was progressing. The regulator appealed the decision to the High Court and she was struck off, despite the original tribunal hearing claims that the “toxic and uncaring” firm had adopted a “sudden focus on financial return on employees” and an “aggressive implementation” of billing targets.

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The second, and more recent case involved Emily Scott, a trainee solicitor who last month was struck off after she was found to have acted dishonestly in matters concerning client funds. The heavy sanction came despite the fact that Scott was the one to bring the misconduct at the firm to the SRA’s attention. Moreover, the tribunal acknowledged she’d been “deceived, pressured, bullied and manipulated” by a senior lawyer at her former firm.

On this, the JLD said: “In the case of Ms Scott, our concerns have been realised and we therefore now ask the SRA to confirm what protections are afforded to trainee solicitors and junior solicitors who whistleblow in circumstances whereby they may have been pressured into being complicit in actions that breach the SRA Code of Conduct.”

Urging the regulator to take action against law firms that fail to provide “healthy working environments” for young lawyers, the letter continued:

“We would also point out that the sanctions such as the case of Ms James and Ms Scott are likely to deter individuals, particularly junior lawyers who are the most vulnerable in our profession, to disclose wrongdoing, (either by their employer or by themselves) for fear they will be struck off, landed with a heavy costs order and receive negative publicity.”


Junior Lawyer Division committee member, Kayleigh Leonie, will be speaking at the mental health and wellbeing panel session during this year’s Legal Cheek Future of Legal Education and Training Conference on Wednesday 22 May at Kings Place London. Tickets (first release) are available to purchase at the rate of £240 + VAT.

34 Comments

Anonymous

Yes but lets name the firm first I’ll start off with McMillan Williams for the utterly dreadful case law. We probably need legislation to thwart it, due to Diceys separation of powers argument.

FCUK

(12)(0)

Anonymous

Diceys separation of powers…

Bro, good luck with completing your AS Level politics course.

(20)(1)

Anonymous

Better make a suggestion or you’re a wimp?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Boohoo!

Change my soaked diaper and wheel me back to my safespace

(0)(0)

Anonymous

It’s also so hypocritical that lawyers act with integrity by drafting a non disclosure agreement (in exchange of cash) then crops up years later then parliament intervenes

Lol

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Agreed. This is an issue affecting staff across the board and is not gender specific.

(5)(1)

Realist

I’m all for recycling, but haven’t there been quite a few articles on more-or-less the same topic of late?

Law is a cut-throat profession that can not accommodate the nappy-wearers of this world.

Would you want to be represented by a strong professional who is at the top of their game, or a lily-livered weakling who gets upset if Court is a bit stressful?

(6)(40)

Anonymous

Twat

(10)(2)

Anonymous

Thanks for the reasoned argument there, pal.

You’ll go far in law with that approach…

“Your Honour, in my respectful submission, my opponent is a twat. Accordingly, Your Honour should find for my client.”

(5)(3)

Anonymous

First sentence of Udny v Udny:

“My Lords, in this case the Appellant prays a judicial declaration that the Respondent is a bastard”

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Realist is a big swinging dick who takes life’s knocks on the chin, smirks a cheeky smirk, pounds his chest like the silverback he truly is and gets another bottle of Krug in. Since he even looks a bit like the bloke off Suits (apparently), he sometimes uses the pseudo Harvey SpectTheUnexpected.

His favourite programme is that Clarkson thing on Amazon Prime and he likes to listen to Journey

(5)(1)

Anonymous

I do know a few types like this in the City, but thankfully they won’t be retained come qualification round

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Sadly some of them are, and some of them have long since qualified.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

A particular someone comes to mind and he will definitely not be retained

Anonymous

Sadly some of them will be though, and some of them (he’s and she’s) are long since qualified.

Anonymous

‘He’ might be a ‘she’.

(0)(0)

Prospective Client

I would want to be represented by a top, top, Titan like they have at Greenberg Glusker LLP. If I’m paying top wedge I demand nothing less.

(1)(0)

Troll of the Dungeon

Pics or it doesn’t happen!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

didn’t happen

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Let’s not forget that in addition to Emily Scott being struck off because of her greedy and bullying boss, there are also the clients of De Vita Platt and of the estate management companies that Jonathan De Vita and Christopher Platt set-up. The losses are potentially millions of pounds and involve fraudulently-created trusts to avoid care fees.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

This is so true.

We need a sort of metoo investigation into law firm bullying.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Yes, something like metoo, but inclusive, would be good. Something that recognises that bullying affects all genders.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

In my first week as a trainee I had my supervisor rip up my work (my sin being it apparently wasn’t what he wanted despite it reflecting his instructions) and throw it at me, whilst calling me a c***. He then forced me to pick it up, hand it back to him, after which he scrunched it up and threw it at me again whilst ranting about how I was the worst trainee he’d ever had. The rest of the seat had some similar moments, but this is the one that always stood out to me. I still have the pieces of paper as a weird reminder of a worse time.

Years on it still has an impact on me, and is probably a contributing factor to the unreasonable sense of dread I feel at the thought of getting things wrong/not meeting expectations of a senior. Makes me wonder how many perfectly decent lawyers are driven out by bullying, and how much better the culture of firms would be if they refused to tolerate it.

(31)(0)

Anonymous

Thanks for sharing this. Sadly the powers that be seem to have decided junior lawyers are “snowflakes” who should toughen up. Rather than firms telling senior staff to stop bullying staff there is a trend to instead roll out “resilience training” (I’ve had two sessions already) where they tell you that situations like this are normal and you are just reacting abnormally to it.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Name and shame! This has to be CC, surely

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Huh? Most of the comments under this article vanished wtf?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Getting very censorious nowadays are Legal Cheek. Being leaned on heavily by various MC/SC dicks I imagine – threats to cut advertising, collaboration etc….

Don’t smell so good.. 😐

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Not censorious – censor-happy (it’s early, give me a break)

(0)(0)

Bring back eugenics

People like this should not be lawyers. Clients deserve better than a mentally unstable nutter lawyer.

(3)(3)

Me too

I have also seen a grown man reduced to tears in the office after the boss called him a c*nt in front of everyone.

I’m my experience when you work in a high street firm the ‘HR department’ is a) a family member of the boss b) the bosses on off lover ( and hopefully not a family member lol) but the fact remains if you have an issue it’s impossible to raise it because you know it will not get dealt with fairly.

(8)(0)

A trust fund with a trust fund

My experience of most people outside London is that lover and family member are near synonymous

(5)(2)

Anonymous

Yes, this is something that is all too common and affects male and female staff. HR generally make the problem worse and can be bullies themselves.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

I do wish LC would stop misrepresenting the Emily Scott case. She was not “a trainee solicitor who last month was struck off”. She was a *fully qualified* solicitor who was struck off. This is the same basic error made when LC first reported the story. On the facts of the case, it is an important distinction.

In fact, it was a significant feature of the tribunal’s decision that Emily Scott deliberately kept quiet about the large-scale fraudulent activity in which she participated until after she had finished her training contract, because she was concerned that she might not be able to qualify if she came clean sooner.

(0)(3)

Comments are closed.

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