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Junior solicitor suspended for six months after trying to hide email address mix-up

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Harina Zoey Panesar-Jagdev escapes strike-off despite admitting dishonesty

A junior solicitor has been suspended for six months after showing a client a fake email in what a disciplinary tribunal called a “moment of madness”

Harina Zoey Panesar-Jagdev agreed the sanction with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) following the incident in August 2018. A disciplinary tribunal has now signed off on the deal, saying that while a dishonest solicitor would normally be struck off, these were “exceptional circumstances” justifying a mere suspension.

Panesar-Jagdev was nearing the end of her training contract with conveyancing firm LCF Residential and handling the sale of a flat for a client. Needing to send some correspondence about the sale to Firm B, she accidentally emailed it instead to Firm C, which had nothing to do with the sale: the two email addresses were “confusingly similar”.

The mistake came to light nine days later, when Panesar-Jagdev sent a chasing email and Firm C flagged the error. The client had been copied into both emails and was worried that the mix-up would delay the sale.

The trainee then tried to cover her tracks. She made a copy of the original email except with the correct Firm B email address in the “to” field and sent a screenshot to the client, claiming that it showed she had quickly realised the mistake and fixed it nine days earlier.

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That’s what made this a matter for the regulator: dishonesty can be fatal to a solicitor’s career. Panesar-Jagdev had to argue that these were “exceptional circumstances” where being struck off would be disproportionate, despite admitting dishonesty.

Thankfully, the SRA agreed, saying that this was “more akin to the ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse than a calculated plot to conceal dishonesty of a protracted and ongoing nature”. The client hadn’t been negatively affected and Panesar-Jagdev “was a young solicitor who had learned from her mistake”.

Signing off on an agreed six-month suspension, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said that “this had been a fleeting or momentary lapse of judgement which had lasted a very brief period of time [about an hour] before discovery”. Panesar-Jagdev had an otherwise unblemished record and had been kept on by LCF Residential despite the incident. Her new employer was also aware of it.

The tribunal concluded:

“[T]his was a paradigm example of a ‘moment of madness’… which fell into the small residual category of cases for which strike off from the Roll would be a disproportionate sanction.”

Last year, a property solicitor who used Tipp-Ex to change the date on important paperwork was struck off by the same tribunal.

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18 Comments

Joe

These disciplinary cases are already out in the public and writing articles like this to expose the junior lawyers is simply cretin-esque

Kyle

Especially when she has quite a unique memorable name like the one in the article. She wasn’t struck off but now she’s forever going to be remembered for this because of articles like this one on the internet

HZPG

Agreed. LC are such spivs

Andy

t’s always sad when something like this happens to a junior lawyer who didn’t do it out of malice but in a panic state after making a mistake.

There are partners and senior partners who are still at their law firms despite doing a whole lot worse

JDP

Examples?

Andy

I’ve repeatedly tried to list many examples in a reply comment but LC has unsurprisingly deleted every comment response I’ve attempted.

I’m sure you’re smart enough to know how google works and can find many examples yourself!

Rob

Joe/Kyle
It’s interesting that you think a legal news website should suppress a story about a solicitor receiving a serious sanction for dishonest conduct.

If she’s actually *is* going to be forever remembered for this (debatable) it will be her own actions she’ll be remembered for, not for media reports.

Whilst I think on balance it was right not to strike her off, what she did was serious and she doesn’t merit some kind of cover up out of misplaced sympathy.

Roland

The common theme with these sorts of stories is that it’s not making the mistake that is the problem, it’s lying about it and trying to conceal it

FlourPour

And it says a lot about the career that juniors opt for dishonesty over incompetence.

Jones

What do you mean by this?

Jane

This makes 0 sense?

Anon

These people aren’t being disciplined for “mistakes”.

They are being disciplined for dishonestly trying to cover up a mistake.

Mistakes should be avoided if possible, but everyone makes them sometimes. What gets people into trouble is not (for instance) missing a hearing or missing a Companies House deadline. The disciplinary action arises when a lawyer (for instance) misses a hearing *and then* removes the notice of hearing from the file and bins it, so that anyone who inspects the file will be mislead into thinking that it was not received; or the lawyer misses a Companies House deadline *and then* forges the date on an existing document so that Companies House will be mislead into thinking that it is filed within time.

When you make a mistake, fess up and take the consequences. Don’t try to cook the documents to conceal your mistake.

Lawya

Juniors don’t cover their mistakes because they’re scared of the client, they do it because it’s an elitist profession overflowing with perfectionists and a daily boll*cking for eg. an insignificant email typo, is entirely acceptable and justifiable within it.

If a junior can’t be open about their mistakes, it tells you more about the culture of the firm than it does about the junior.

Gregg

Might I add, it is also because of the mental health impact it has on juniors. They’re not thinking straight when they try and cover up mistakes. They’re panicked and overworked and stressed out and do the unthinkable to save themselves

Anon

Junior lawyers should feel comfortable enough to tell partners when they make mistakes like this; if they don’t it suggests the firm is a cesspool. I’ve seen lots of errors from juniors; I’d rather they told me than panicked and lied, which is far worse for both them and the firm’s reputation. Even if the mistake is so cataclysmic it means the firm has to fire them (highly unlikely), being told to find a new firm is better than being struck off or ending up in an article like the above. Firms don’t publicise why lawyers leave.

I’ve seen magic circle partners make absolute howlers on the eve of submissions and signings, so as long as your firm’s partners are normal human beings you would normally survive the odd mistake.

Anon

Agree this didn’t warrant striking off, but I don’t have much sympathy for someone who intentionally creates a false document and willfully uses it to try and deceive their client…

Making mistake is fine. Creating fraudulent documents to try and hide them is not.

RonProbo

The problem is that this decision is not consistent with other decisions. Why is this case less serious than Matthews, where the solicitor left the file on the train and then played for time in the hope that she could refind it? Leaving a file on the train seems less bad than tampering with an email, yet the SRA entered into the agreed outcome and the SDT approved it.

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Dishonesty should mean being struck off. With the pathetic “right to be forgotten” someone who just gets a rap on the knuckles will be able to expose others to risk in a few years time. There is a glut of lawyers out there and no need to let the dishonesty back in.

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