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No sanction for trainee solicitor who inflated billing hours

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Tribunal finds rookie was not dishonest

A trainee solicitor who billed clients for work she had not done has been cleared of wrongdoing.

Michelle Louise Craven, who was working at Cheshire outfit MLP Law Limited at the time, was accused of dishonesty and a lack of integrity by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

She admitted claiming time for work she had not done — £2,991.50 for 20.2 hours during the final seat of her training contract in 2018 — but denied dishonesty and any breach of regulator’s rules.

The young rookie, representing herself, told the tribunal she had been suffering from anxiety due to the “unrealistic deadlines” and “excessive working hours”, the Law Society Gazette reports, further claiming colleagues within her department were “oppressive and unapproachable”. She also claimed the firm had a culture of anticipatory billing.

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“They should have known the stress they were putting me under by offloading their work on me,” Craven reportedly told the tribunal.

For the SRA, Andrew Bullock argued “if that culture did exist, and we do not accept that it did, then she should simply have declined to join in”.

The tribunal found Craven was not dishonest and had not breached any SRA rules. She was, however, instructed to pay fixed costs of £3,000, with the SRA told to cover the rest of the bill.

Legal Cheek reported earlier this week how a newly qualified lawyer was struck off for trying to cover up a £3,000 costs order against her client. Katherine Gilroy, who suffered from work-related anxiety and depression, had demonstrated “a very serious lack of integrity”, according to the tribunal.

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