Office workers

Hogan Lovells lawyers copied into another email, which they know they really, really shouldn't read...

A ex-employee of Hogan Lovells has been ordered to pay costs to the firm, having sent a "barrage of unreasonable correspondence" to one partner, copying in a "significant number" of other partners.

Mr Donskoi was employed by Hogan Lovells "to provide services" for "significant legal matters", but the firm terminated the engagement in August 2020.

The former employee brought three claims: unfair dismissal; automatic unfair dismissal by reason of a protected disclosure; and a claim for detriment arising by reason of a protected disclosure. 

Hogan Lovells applied to have the claims struck out on the grounds that Donskoi had conducted the proceedings in a manner which was "scandalous, unreasonable or vexatious." 

At a recent employment tribunal hearing, Judge Kelly struck out the unfair dismissal claim, as the ex-staffer had not worked for the required two-year qualifying period. The other two claims also failed, as Hogan Lovells successfully argued that any potentially protected disclosure that the claimant relied upon, came after his dismissal.

Hogan Lovells applied for costs of £20,000 arguing that at a previous preliminary hearing in 2021, another judge had made it clear "that it was inappropriate" for Donskoi "to make serious allegations of impropriety against solicitors without a clear and proper basis for doing so."

At the most recent hearing, Judge Kelly found that Donskoi had made "numerous attacks on the professional integrity" of a Hogan Lovells partner, with a "barrage of unreasonable correspondence", which included addressing him as “Mr dear deceptive friend” in emails, and referring to him as "deceptive" and "dodgy".

In one email, Donskoi wrote to the employment partner: “your greediness and lies have made me a bit tired”. He also referred to Hogan Lovells as a firm of “liars and scammers”.

The judge noted that the ex-employee had "copied in all of (or certainly a significant number of) partners" at Hogan Lovells into his correspondence, with the purpose, Donskoi suggested, to prevent the partner who was the subject of his ire, from lying. 

In determining costs, Judge Kelly commented that Donskoi had pursued "a hopeless claim" which would have been apparent after a preliminary hearing in July 2021. He also criticised the claimant for submitting "voluminous" material for the hearing, "most of which" was irrelevant. 

Judge Kelly ordered Donskoi to pay a sum of £4,000 in costs to Hogan Lovells.

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Social Media Queen 05 May 23 09:21

I wish one of the other Hogan Lovells partners would stop flooding LinkedIn every week with their conceited essays 

Anonymous 05 May 23 11:07

Very bad advert for the courts. The £4k fine just looks like ex-lawyers looking after current lawyers. Hope its appealed away.

A dish served Luke warm.. 05 May 23 20:50

@@Anonymous 05 May 23 11:07

You are wrong.

This isn’t a bad ad for the courts or for lawyers. On your logic, it would mean that the only way courts could ever show impartiality is to always find against any lawyers who are sued. That’s not impartiality or justice - it’s discrimination that you’re proposing.

Here, there was a clear case of drivel being spewed by the ex-employee - some former employees have legit grievances, some don’t - this just looks like a mud slinging bitter employee with no grounds for a claim. The tribunal’s funding was just - they should have slammed him for more than £4K so he should consider himself lucky for getting away so lightly. 

Common sense prevails 05 May 23 20:52

Win! In the bag! You rarely see a case where the employee gets hit with costs. Must have been very naughty! 

Anonymous 06 May 23 08:40

@[email protected] - no, its not wrong. Suggesting that this will appear to many people as ex-lawyers looking after current lawyers is of course not the same as saying that judges should always find against lawyers.

If an employee feels that they have a grievance against an employer then they're perfectly entitled to raise those with whoever they choose. Cc'ing other partners is absolutely legit and is a valid tactic, especially when the legal process is stacked against the employee. If the firm don't like it they can ignore the accusations, deny them, or sue for libel if they choose to do so. What they can't do is have a judge fine the employee at the ET. The correspondence can be as voluminous as the employee wants, its their right and they shouldn't be fined for it.

This decision looks awful, it gives a terrible impression of the courts and will have a chilling effect of employees who want to take law firms to the ET, many of whom will have been bullied, discriminated against or have otherwise decent claims. Hopefully this decision will he appealed or crowdfunded out of existence.

Your comment contradicts itself - you say the decision was just but then that the employee was lucky and should have been slammed for more than £4k. Which is it? What do you think the fine should have been?

Anonymous 06 May 23 09:52

@Common sense prevails - or treated very unfairly. We have no idea what he must have done. Remember, costs cannot be punitive.

Anonymous 11 May 23 14:02

@08:40 - you have a seriously flawed view of litigation and how parties to it should behave. It is not the case that litigant can make any accusation they like, send correspondence to whomever they like and in whatever quantities they like. Accusations should only be made when there is good evidence to make them, and correspondence/supporting docs should be concise and relevant. This has been the way for decades and the reason for it is obvious - only serious and supported claims should be brought before the courts where public money is used to fund their existence. 

It is entirely just that a complainant is hit with costs sanctions when they act improperly to waste time or terrorise others. Perhaps look at the decision and comment on the merits of the principles it espouses rather than lazily looking at the result and the occupation of the defendants to support your "conclusions". 

Its quite clear you would be the exact same sort of litigant as the person fined. Your intellectually dishonest argument that the other poster contradicted him/her self by supporting the judgement as just but querying if the punishment went far enough (which is not contradiction at all) says it all. 

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