Dentons has suspended and "disciplined" four trainees who were caught accessing confidential HR documents.

The final seat trainees, part of an intake of 39, were in the process of applying for newly-qualified positions at the firm when they were caught "snooping" on confidential HR documents, said a source. "They got called up to HR last Tuesday lunchtime", said the insider, "and haven’t been allowed to come into work since".

A spokesman for Dentons confirmed that "while considering the trainees' NQ applications, a number of conduct issues came to our attention concerning unauthorised access to confidential information relevant to the process".  He said Dentons suspended all four trainees last week and launched an investigation, which has now resulted in all them being subjected to "disciplinary action". Dentons would not elaborate on the nature of the sanctions, but it appears highly likely that some of the super spies will not be retained on qualification. 

    How it looked. 

"We expect our trainees to act with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism
", said the spokesman, "and are of course deeply disappointed and saddened by this development".

Dentons' potential expulsion of trainees is the latest example of firms clamping down on shortcomings amongst the junior ranks. Earlier this month RollOnFriday revealed that Ince & Co had made the unusual decision to axe a trainee for poor performance halfway through their training contract, and that Slaughter and May had jettisoned two law students before they even started, because they failed to pass modules on the LPC.
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Anonymous 18 May 18 00:25

Doesn't Dentons HR usually file confidential documents in the shredder? Why were they in a publically available file for all to access?

Anonymous 18 May 18 00:46

Mmm snooping - so, is this something that everyone has access to and they were the ones who just looked?

Anonymous 18 May 18 02:15

Seems a bit harsh for trainees to pay such a high price for the failings of the HR team to lock documents or file them in a private space. An error of judgment in not resisting a look but applying for NQ jobs in a shrinking market is very stressful - stress can make people act out of character.

Anonymous 18 May 18 03:36

Firms have the ability to create a Chinese wall; surely confidential HR documents can also be private on WorkSite. It takes seconds to do so. It sounds like gross HR incompetence to allow access to the documents in the first place.

Anonymous 18 May 18 09:35

Brilliant - the response of the profession is ‘it’s HR’s fault’. Such high ethical standards.

Anonymous 18 May 18 09:35

I'm not sure who to blame, overcurious trainees, or an incompetent HR department, who has shown form. First we had the case of Bina Hale and now this... I guess Dentons' must decide whether the HR team is fit for purpose. I have had the pleasure of meeting some incompetent people, but this bunch must be the Crème de la Crème!!!

Anonymous 18 May 18 09:42

Have they also suspended the pillock in HR who apparently filed this sensitive information in a place where it could be accessed by anyone who happenned to be looking?

Anonymous 18 May 18 09:47

May be they should sue the firm for the HR department breaching data protection law by not locking stuff up (unless they were engaged in criminal hacking rather than just glancing at something some fool had left out on a desk) and make a report to the Information Commissioner's office. Fines of up to £500,000 could be levied.

Anonymous 18 May 18 09:48

You can learn more about confidential information whilst listening to people speaking on their mobile phone in public (e.g train).

Anonymous 18 May 18 10:43

they obviously know they were not supposed to be looking at the documents. anyone blaming HR has a massive chip on their shoulder - this is clearly a demonstration of a lack of integrity

Anonymous 18 May 18 10:46

I think Dentons should congratulate these 4 young people for investigating and exposing gaps in their document security protocols. I'm sure Dentons will treat this as a "lessons learned" exercise and ensure that HR data, confidential client info and all sort of other sensitive materials are properly secured in future.

I think bonuses are in order, don't you?

Anonymous 18 May 18 10:54

“Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” Maybe they should have taken the advice given to the young Bud Fox to heart. Ah, the morality tale of the eighties is the gift that keeps on giving.

Anonymous 18 May 18 11:06

Anon @ 09:43 - I’m not sure just blaming the trainees is right, seems to me like there’s clearly fault on both sides... I don’t disagree with you that the trainees knew they shouldn’t have been looking at the docs. They obviously made a massive error in judgment by looking in the first place. But you can’t deny HR should have known better. Confidential HR documents shouldn’t have been publicly searchable in the first place - you can save things privately on worksite for a reason!

Anonymous 18 May 18 11:30

It's both their fault. The trainees shouldn't be snooping, and HR should have locked the files down. Simples.

Anonymous 18 May 18 11:42

to the people blaming HR - presumably you blame the victims of crime if they left the door open or stuff out

get real - there is plenty to blame most HR teams for, but the actions of the trainees is not HR's fault and their actions are what they are being held to account over

Anonymous 18 May 18 12:21

If my house was broken into because someone who had been entrusted with the keys left the door open I'd hold them partially to blame.

Anonymous 18 May 18 12:21

to nonny10.42 - it's not quite like blaming someone for leaving their door unlocked. Nothing was "taken", they merely looked. It's closer to someone standing naked at a window looking on to a busy road, and then calling the police to complain about people glancing at them.

Roll On Friday 18 May 18 12:27

Seeking out your own personal data is not something I would immediately blame a trainee for.

Granted, the product of the search will contain information about others, but if that was not the object of the search then I don't really see the ethical issue.

Also typical HR incompetence, followed by massive overreaction to distract from said incompetence.

Anonymous 18 May 18 13:09

Well, the Bina Hale fiasco reveals how their HR works. Confidential notes are written down in a notebook, with the wrong date in the title (as part of their ingenious analogue encryption system). Then the page is torn out of the notebook and stuffed in a drawer somewhere. So we can conclude that the trainees must have opened that drawer and discovered the papers.

Anonymous 18 May 18 13:53

The documents surely can't have been "confidential" if they were freely accessible to all who have access to the system? If they were, the failure is on Denton's part for not protecting their confidential information better and it seems hugely unfair for the trainees to suffer for this misjudgment.

Anonymous 18 May 18 14:19

I'm (oddly) with Dentons on this: if the trainees cannot resist temptation to look at confidential documents then they cannot be trusted. As a litigator I have had information sent to me accidentally - yes, it was the fault of the other side but I would never dream of putting me and my client in such a conflict position. If these trainees are so desperate then they clearly aren't very good.

Roll On Friday 18 May 18 14:30

Poor judgment, yes. And naivete not to realise the full audit trail attached to the document.

But FFS, there are literally tens of millions of documents on these systems. And it's inevitable that you - innocently or otherwise - stumble across something potentially interesting. And to expect that someone doesn't look at something that directly concerns their future is asking a bit much .

Give them a stern talking-to, but HR are the ones who should be getting the real rocket. If we didn't know it was inevitable and expected that things like this would be found, they wouldn't need document security.

Anonymous 18 May 18 20:38

So Dentons provide a system for trainees to use, encourages them to use it for their research... and then punishes them when they see something on it that Dentons say they shouldn't? Err....

Anonymous 20 May 18 02:20

Of course 13.19. You would never dream of looking at something you shouldn't have looked at. Alas you would never know that until you had, err, looked at it.

Anonymous 21 May 18 14:09

Nothing wrong with searching in a firm's doc management system for any document which contains your name. The assumption is that the firm would lock down anything you're not meant to see.

Anonymous 21 May 18 18:43

I always search my name in the doc management system to find emails and docs relating to matters I am working on. That is the point of it. As a trainee, I also search for trainee related material so I can find hangovers, relevant events or training material. I could very well come across such a document if it wasn't secured. You can't blame me for your own incompetence. I am doing my job. You are not doing yours. I would be looking into legal options at an ET if sanctions threatening my employment or qualification prospects were taken if this had happened to me.

Anonymous 22 May 18 10:51

Something similar happened at my firm some time ago - a trainee looking at the qualification material on someone else’s computer. That was arguably worse. He was given a suitable rollicking and everyone moved on. Qualification is a stressful time and people should be human about these things (but certainly not condoning).

HR can’t be held fully to blame but let’s be clear - they screwed up significantly. First, I would be livid if I was another trainee and they had allowed a document to be accessible that may have said I’m not getting a job on qualification. Second, in this case, there may or may not be too much damage done but imagine if this was instead an employee facing redundancy who accessed information regarding the redundancy procedures and background. They would be inviting claims against the firm.

The trainees were wrong to look but it’s an understandable temptation for a young person in that position. There is nothing understandable about the HR incompetence - that just needs a suitable rollicking also and to ensure they don’t do it again.

Roll On Friday 23 May 18 21:34

I don't see how you can blame the trainees. If there is a public document with details of qualification, of course they are going to look at it.

And no harm was done. They would have found out a week or two later anyway.