A cautionary email tale for trainees

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By Anuja Venkataramani on


Law firm’s dismissal of trainee solicitor who forwarded client comms to private email address upheld

An Employment Tribunal has ruled that a trainee solicitor who sent a “significant number of confidential and client sensitive communications to a private email address”, which she controlled, justified summary dismissal.

Wing Sze Siu had commenced her training contract at Sterling Law in July 2021, a London-based boutique law firm, around a year prior to her dismissal last autumn.

Siu’s claim was that the principal reasons for her dismissal were that she had made protected disclosures regarding alleged misconduct at the firm to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Legal Ombudsman, and/or because of her pregnancy. Conversely, Sterling Law sought to argue that Siu had fundamentally breached her training contract by committing gross misconduct for a variety of reasons – including forwarding 106 emails from her work email account to her private email address.

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While the Tribunal was critical of the firm’s approach to its investigation, describing it as “seriously deficient and unsatisfactory”, it found that Siu’s forwarding of emails to a private address was a significant enough standalone issue to dismiss the complaint of wrongful dismissal.

Employment Judge Sutton KC concluded:

“As to the other instances of alleged misconduct on the Claimant’s part, the Tribunal felt that the evidence was either too sketchy or insufficiently cogent to satisfy it to the requisite standard of proof. But the Claimant’s breach arising out of the dissemination of emails to a private address was sufficient, viewed as a discrete issue, to rebut the complaint of wrongful dismissal.”

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