Also practised for years without SRA authorisation
A solicitor who admitted to “inaccurate” Facebook posts boasting of wins in court that never happened has been suspended for six months.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) accepted that Irina Magdalena Schwab’s posts about fictional cases demonstrated a “lack of integrity” but not dishonesty.
The 46-year-old came to the regulator’s attention after applying for authorisation to run a law firm several years after starting it up.
She is a qualified solicitor, and began practising as Schwab & Co Legal Services Ltd in April 2015 — but didn’t apply for SRA registration until September 2019.
Schwab mentioned “a discussion she had at the SRA stand at LegalEx at London Olympia, following which she made the decision to register the firm as a regulated body”.
Officials checked the firm out and discovered several years’ worth of Facebook posts about its unauthorised legal activities. Most were carefully crafted to give the impression of client success without explicitly claiming anything — “we finish the week with a ‘successful visit’ to Basildon Magistrates Court” — but a handful mentioned specific cases.
“Colchester County Court, 2nd January 2018. Successful eviction hearing on behalf of a landlord by Schwab & Co”
“Double win today! Watford Family Court — successfully fought and suspended a prohibited steps order preventing a mother to leave the jurisdiction with the children. Milton Keynes County Court — successfully defended a set-aside application”
“Great result at Cambridge Magistrates Court! So pleased and proud to be able to represent our client, who eventually managed to prove her innocence!!!”
Questioned about whether or not the posts reflected real cases, Schwab admitted they were “just pure marketing” and “could be viewed” as misleading.
SRA investigators concluded that “the posting of inaccurate and/or misleading information in these circumstances… where it would seem the intention was to create an impression that the firm was more active than in fact it was indicates a lack of integrity on the part of the respondent”. But they accepted, according to an agreed outcome lodged with the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, that “there is no evidence of dishonesty”.
In her settlement with the SRA, Schwab admitted several professional misconduct allegations to do with the Facebook posts and running an unregistered firm.
In mitigation, she argued that the breaches arose from genuine ignorance about the need to get her firm authorised before cracking into legal practice. The SRA broadly agreed that the failure to apply for authorisation and comply with money laundering rules were most likely down to her “lack of awareness of the regulatory requirements, rather than any attempt to avoid SRA scrutiny”.
Schwab, a British-Romanian dual national, also told the tribunal that she had grafted hard to become a solicitor, starting her studies in 2006 and qualifying as a legal executive in 2013 before finally being added to the roll in 2016 — all while working full-time for the CPS.
The SRA was willing to let her off with a fine, but the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal thought that too lenient. Schwab ultimately agreed to a six-month suspension, along with a two-year ban on running a firm and a £15,000 bill for costs.