The SRA has prohibited a former Herbert Smith Freehills paralegal from working in a legal practice, after she was caught making false overtime claims.
The paralegal worked in the City firm's disputes team from November 2011 until January 2019. She submitted nine overtime claim forms to the payroll department, totalling 260 hours, over a 10 week period in 2018. The firm noticed that the claims were unusually high, and an internal investigation found they had been signed-off with the initials of a former manager. However, that manager told HSF that they hadn't initialled the documents or approved the overtime.
In 2019 HSF dismissed the employee for gross misconduct and reported her to the SRA. She admitted to the regulator that she had been dishonest by inserting the initials on the claims forms to mislead the firm.
The SRA held that the paralegal's conduct had "undermined trust in the provision of legal services and the solicitors' profession." The regulator prohibited her from being employed by a solicitor or firm without the SRA's prior permission and ordered that she pay £300 in costs.
The SRA's decision (a Section 43 Order) is not a total ban, as a firm could apply to the regulator for permission to employ the paralegal. The SRA could then approve such an application if various conditions are met, such as the firm closely supervising and monitoring the employee.
A HSF spokeswoman told RollOnFriday, “we can confirm that we dismissed a paralegal in January 2019 for misconduct and immediately referred the matter to the SRA.”