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BPP grad denied licence to practise law over LLM plagiarism

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Applied for foreign lawyer status

A BPP University Law School graduate has been denied the right to practise as a solicitor after being caught plagiarising during her studies.

Juhi Valia applied for registration as a foreign lawyer, but was turned down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) because she had “intentionally plagiarised” an essay written for her LLM degree.

Someone qualified to practise law in their home country can register with the SRA to get permission to carry out reserved legal activities in England and Wales. But they must be “of good character and repute” and “declare matters which may affect your character and suitability”.

Plagiarism is apparently enough to flunk someone on this test. In a decision published on 1 November, the regulator said that it was refusing Vahia’s application because she was not a “fit and proper person” to practise as a registered foreign lawyer.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

The decision goes on:

“On 12 October 2018 an academic misconduct panel at BPP University found that Ms Valia had intentionally plagiarised most of a paper submitted as part of her LLM degree. The panel found there was a serious degree of premeditation and recklessness in Ms Valia’s act”.

The SRA added that she was not “rehabilitated” by the time she applied, and had an appeal to an SRA adjudication panel turned down.

A request for comment to Valia’s work email address bounced back. The firm in question has been approached for comment.

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17 Comments

Anonymous

This highlights the issues surrounding plagiarism technology and electronic submission systems used by universities. Both must be robust. It also means that students facing disciplinary proceedings at undergraduate/postgraduate should be properly represented when attending internal university disciplinary hearings. The adverse effect of poor advice at this stage seems disproportionate. Universities must ensure allegations are properly investigated which I fear may not always be the case.

Law AIO

I agree with some of these comments. As an a academic integrity officer for law I see lots of cases of ‘plagiarism’ the issues for me is where it is a commissioned essay often obtained through contract essay mills. We are introducing new technology to assist but in lots of cases it is difficult to prove. I suspect many more students get away with it than are every wrongful found against as it is normal policy to be on the side of caution. Often students do not engage with the process let alone get good advice.

Anonymous

I completely agree. I was found by a disciplinary meeting to have plagiarised an essay when I didn’t. The decision that I had plagiarised was made on the basis that the essay was of too high a standard for me to have written it (decided by two members of university staff who had never met me). I was told, explicitly, that there was no option to appeal and that their decision was final. I had to initiate a complaint with the university which took over ten months for them to conclude. The only evidence they ever had against me was that I couldn’t be good enough. I think that if the SRA are going to exclude people on the basis of plagiarism then they should conduct their own investigations rather than rely on universities (who benefit financially from finding students guilty of plagiarism – even when my name was cleared, I still had to pay £2000 to be able to resit the assessment).

Jane

That is really horrible for you. Could you not have submitted lots of yhour other work and they could have compared the words you use, extent of vocabulary, your turns of phrase etc etc to show only you could have writteh the high standard work when compared with say ten of your other essays?

Anonymous

Hi Jane,
Unfortunately not – there was no option for this. I was told to bring evidence of how I constructed the essay so I brought my essay plan and first draft with me but the members of staff didn’t even look at them. Instead, the member of staff pulled out some sentences from my essay and asked me for the exact information (bearing in mind I’d written the essay two months prior to this). I could provide about 60% of it from memory (things like where a quote was from, exact numbers used etc).
They concluded that there wasn’t sufficient proof that I had written it.
During my complaint it was found that the member of staff who had initiated the email had actually been somewhat stalking me (despite never meeting me). She told other members of staff not to mark my work and to pass it directly to her, she sent fake marks to external examiners, she viewed my private Facebook account on her work computer over 1000 times in a three month period, she was given access to my university email account by the IT department, she contacted my parents (who weren’t even my emergency contact so I don’t know how she got their information). The whole experience was rather traumatic to be honest.
Regardless of my experience, the amount of investigation done to find someone guilty of plagiarism is appallingly low. It’s essentially a case of being guilty if you’re accused and many people wouldn’t fight it if they were let off with a warning or minor punishment – the SRA should be aware of that if they’re going to make such significant decisions.

CHEAT HATER

If you don’t cheat you won’t get caught. Quite simple really.

Anon anon

See above simpleton

Future Trainee (I think?)

***Legit question***

Legal Cheek comments section has been something of hand-holder for me throughout the past few years of TC applications I’ve been making, and it seems that I’m not finished with it just yet. Basically, having had a few interviews at a firm, I was fortunate enough to receive a phone call offering me a TC and subsequently an email containing the offer letter. I duly e-signed the offer letter and received the automated ‘letter has been signed and filed, sent to all parties etc.’ email too — so far, so good. Only thing is that this is now just over a month ago and I have received no communication from the firm since.

While I wouldn’t usually worry, two things are stuck in my mind: firstly, I have since declined interviews at firm which I would otherwise have been extremely grateful to attend (which is an uneasy feeling to say the least); and secondly, the offer letter made reference to another document (the actual training ‘contract’) and said I was due to receive it shortly, which obviously I haven’t.

I don’t really want to be annoying and send them an email or something like “hi, just checking I still have a TC?”, but at the same time I’m a bit nervy about updating linkedin etc. before I know things are set in stone!

Wisdom of LC comments, you are (once again) my only hope…

Anon

Busy time for graduate recruitment. Don’t worry. Send them a friendly reminder email.

Trainees today are idiots

Really?

When does the TC start? If it is a long way off, what exactly do you expect to hear this far in advance?

If the TC start is fairly soon, call HR and ask for the details.

Why would you update LinkedIn, you’re not a trainee yet.

Basic common sense.

Anon

It seems to be a recent trend to announce all your job offers on LinkedIn. You see some students list out all the firms they claim to be holding offers from.

Anonimouse

The advice that I would give is to contact the Recruitment team mentioning how excited you are to have received the offer. Enquire about any social events (Xmas Party) that would give you an opportunity to meet your future cohort and current Trainees.

That will at least begin some correspondence and you can feel confident that the TC is yours.

If a Law firm is recruiting 2 years in advance then there is quite often a gap between the offer and any further communication. From their point of you they have made the offer, you have accepted and now they just need to wait until closer to your start date to begin the on boarding process. Certainly not ideal but very common.

Lord Chief Justice lunatic

I would have fired you already simply because you lack the commonsense to pursue this matter. Be under no illusions, professional practice is not like college or home or any of the tender loving environments you are used to, it is an arena and you will need to fight your corner (your clients and your own). Research and tenacity are your weapons, perseverance and resilience your comrades. Now step up to the line and prepare for battle!

OP

Spring 2022… All fair points though, cheers.

Common sense a valuable thing indeed, but at this point I just couldn’t bear to think how atrociously frustrating it would be lose a TC because of some admin balls up.

Back to my revision!

Anonymous

I plagurise all my worke. And it got me college degree and monies. I live in portaloo now

Law Grad

Are all SRA decisions published for all to see? I plan on going for training contracts and so on, but I have an issue that the SRA will need to look at (nothing huge or similar to this post, but still something that a decision will be reached on). Will this be something everyone could see the result of?

Lord Chief Justice Nonsense

Now that the implications of these amateurish disciplinary hearings are made manifest, perhaps our tender little snowflake students will take them more seriously. If you cheat or use an essay mill and are caught, get ready to defend yourself. You can do it badly yourself or employ a professional to do it for you. It may be the best money you ever spent because if you run the risk of losing your career through badly made decision by University, it’s worth fighting for. Universities will usually back down once your lawyer up and start threatening judicial review

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