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DWF trainee solicitor who shared confidential client information with a friend loses unfair dismissal claim

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Sacked just before qualification

A trainee solicitor who was sacked from DWF for sharing client information with a friend has lost a claim for unfair dismissal.

Haley Tansey was sacked from the global outfit in September 2017 — weeks before she was due to qualify — after she admitted, among other things, sending emails containing confidential client information to a friend and to her own personal email address.

Tansey initially worked with the firm between late 2013 and 2014 “on an occasional basis” in order to gain work experience, according to an employment tribunal judgment. The unremunerated role came about because of her “close personal friendship” with one of the firm’s partners, Rachel Jones, and on the understanding that she was to be offered a contract of employment with DWF.

The judgment states: “One of the reasons Ms Jones was keen to have the respondent appoint the claimant was that she was a mature student coming into the legal profession after a career in banking… She then was involved in two businesses of which she was a director, Brigantia Limited and Brigantia Funding LLP, both operated by the claimant’s friend and mentor Gina Ramsay.”

It was during her period of work experience that Jones sent Tansey a number of emails containing confidential client information.

Tansey secured a paralegal role in October 2014 and became a trainee solicitor with the firm in September 2015.

In March 2017, DWF discovered the rookie lawyer had sent two emails to clients in breach of its supervision policy, which required all trainees to refer outgoing emails to a supervisor or more senior colleague.

Jones was made aware of the issue and was granted access to Tansey’s email account, which showed she had been sending emails containing client information to her friend Ramsay and her own private email address.

The information, according to the judgment, included: “legal advice which was subject to legal professional privilege; Key Client updates compiled by the respondent; a template zero hours contract produced for a client; and papers relating to litigation with third parties whose identity and personal medical information was disclosed.”

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Tansey admitted sending the emails but contended that her dismissal was unfair because her actions were not deliberate, did not amount to gross misconduct and did not justify dismissal.

The judgment continued: “Her explanation for forwarding information was that it was for her own personal development, and also because she and Ms Ramsay enjoyed discussing law with each other. Ms Ramsay had an academic interest in law although she was no longer practising, after previously working as a solicitor in Australia.”

Tansey said she had forwarded the zero hours contract to Ramsay because she asked about one for her cleaning staff, while she did not believe the “Key Client updates” were confidential as they contained information about them which was in the public domain. She did, however, concede that by sending these to Ramsay she was disclosing the names of the respondent’s clients, which was itself confidential information.

Despite Tansey’s arguments to the contrary, the tribunal said the “highly confidential material” disclosed to Ramsay bore no comparison with the information she received from Jones via email during work experience.

The tribunal ruled her dismissal fell within the range of reasonable responses by DWF.

A DWF spokesperson told Legal Cheek: “We are pleased that the tribunal has found in favour of DWF and that the matter can now be brought to a close.”

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39 Comments

Anonymous

DWF is too similar to DWP.

(22)(1)

Anonymous

Report them to SRA for passing off

(6)(1)

concurrence déloyale

Perhaps you should re-learn, or otherwise just learn, what passing off is and how a successful claim would come about.

It would appear your knowledge is somewhat lacking.

(1)(18)

Anonymous

God, it is the dull, stupid and witless like 9:32 that give the profession a bad name. Since the earlier comment, itself tongue in cheek, referred to the SRA, then it was clear there was no reference to a civil action in the tort of passing off.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Just ignore 9:32, he is clearly an idiot.

Anonymous

Tw*t.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Them benefit cheats/system spongers be all frothy like.

(3)(4)

Anonymous

DWF/DWP/SRA/BSB/LLP/LLB.

(3)(6)

For anyone who cares

Nepotism is rife at this place, perhaps this is a lesson that it does not result in the most capable candidates being hired and can have unwanted consequences.

(60)(0)

Anonymous

Purely a paralegal factory.

(12)(7)

Anonymous

Quite right. Part of the blame lies with the Partner who hired her against better Judgment.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

To be fair, judging by the “defence” by this dimebar; it’s a good thing she was fired.

Honestly, at what point did she think “this is fine”?

(56)(0)

Anonymous

Not sure why she sued them.

(36)(0)

Anonymous

Suing people is fun.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

She has a history of suing former employers and losing.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bradford/8683581.stm

(33)(0)

ET cynic

Because access to the employment tribunal is free, and unsuccessful claimants are very rarely compelled to pay the respondent’s costs. Consequently, many claims are totally without merit, such as this one.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

true as that may be, it is a necessity given the dramatic imbalance between the relative bargaining power of employers and their employees

(1)(0)

Anon

“In March 2017, DWF discovered the rookie lawyer had sent two emails to clients in breach of its supervision policy, which required all trainees to refer outgoing emails to a supervisor or more senior colleague.”

Why would anyone want to start their TC at a firm where you can’t send a single email externally unsupervised?

(33)(13)

Wet behind the ears Junior.

Don’t know what point of life you are at, but there are some emails that I get absolutely terrified at before I send them off, just in terms triple checking I am sending it to the right person.

Never hurts to have a second pair of eyes.

That, and I am pretty sure that Trainee’s aren’t allowed to give legal advice to members of the public, without some form of caveated “looked over by a regulated person” thing.

(23)(3)

D_T_T

I don’t know what the emails in question are here, but it really depends. I will get downvotes I’m sure, for pointing out that I don’t care if trainees are sending simple messages to clients or third parties, but they’re really not supposed to be giving legal advice without being properly supervised.

If the emails were straightforward and factual in nature then I wouldn’t have an issue with a trainee sending them, but I have seen trainees and paralegals, unbidden, agree changes to material documents, give views “based on their experience”, give undertakings and even agree a deal is closed (!!), in part because they’ve been pumped by certain guidance to “own” deals or “show confidence” etc, when really firms and supervisors usually just want to do them the particular task they’ve been given properly and with some thought applied.

(15)(0)

D_T_T

*pumped up, I think I meant. The importance of proofreading. If only someone had checked my post.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Quick get a failed RG paralegal on it!

Anonymous

It is absolutely advisable to have client destined communication to be given the green light by a more senior person.

(0)(0)

Former critic

Good story and reporting, Thomas, congrats. Resist temptations and be strong.

(7)(0)

Thomas

Thanks Dad

(4)(0)

Anonymous

A face for radio and history of failed legal action.

8/10, would have been a great lawyer, Shrek will be missed.

(12)(0)

Anonymous

In and amongst DWF were beneficiaries of bids to Serco by rival law firms, if I have read the judgment correctly. C was seconded there and brought a hard copy file to DWF. Also they benefitted from seeing Pinsent Masons fees. P M were Serco’ s employment lawyers while she was there.

C ran the idea that her emails to a business friend were of a similar hue, so it could not be gross misconduct.

C was also fighting to qualify.

C had a 1994 barrister, DWF a 2003 but a 2018 Crown Court Recorder also, who doesnt look like he receives many losing briefs !

It would be interesting to know how 1994 planned to win this, or whether she advised prospects were not too good but was told to proceed anyway.

Any thoughts comrades ?

(5)(4)

Anonymous

Dunno Paul

(7)(0)

Anon

Reading through the judgment, it’s fair to conclude Tansey is a nasty piece of work. The type who will drown innocent souls with her

(17)(0)

Anon

Taking innocent souls with her.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

A lawyer’s breakfast nom-yum.

(1)(0)

DWef Off!

Spot on.

It didn’t take long for her colleagues to work that one out – all it required was to google her name and out came the tribunal she lost against her former bank employer.

Very narcissistic that one, to the point she believed so much on her selfish actions!

(7)(0)

Writes itself.

DWF the victim of a FWD: incident. Classic.

(4)(0)

D_T_T

Having read the judgement, I wonder if that “close personal friendship” is intact…

(10)(0)

Anonymous

Having admitted to it, any idiot would have told her that it was reasonable for the Employer to view it as gross misconduct, rather than just simple misconduct.

And even if she had by fluke won on liability, it’s likely that there would have been a 100% reduction for contrib fault.

Anyhow, she’s now guaranteed it that no law firm will touch her with a barge pole.

(18)(1)

Anonymous

Yes, but we are talking about someone with victim issues and a loose grasp on reality.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Never mind, I’m sure she can become a conveyancer for a two bit high street practice

(1)(0)

Anonymous

And then after a while, fail there too and sue them unsuccessfully.

(2)(0)

DWeff Off

Spot on.

It didn’t take long for her colleagues to work that one out – all it required was to google her name and out came the tribunal she lost against her former bank employer.

Very narcissistic that one, to the point she believed so much in her selfish actions!

(8)(0)

Comments are closed.