"Yes, I am a bona fide lawyer, I rest my case, ipso facto, I object"
The SRA has prohibited an ex-Irwin Mitchell call centre employee from working in the profession, after she pretended to be a lawyer at the firm.
Rachel Saunyama was employed by Irwin Mitchell from October 2013 as a 'client experience expert', where she handled and forwarded telephone calls, and passed on emails to relevant departments. Her role did not include giving legal advice or acting for clients.
The issue arose when an acquaintance of Saunyama was having difficulties with an employer. Saunyama sent an email from her work email address to the employer, purporting to act on behalf of her friend. The employer instructed solicitors and Saunyama emailed them directly.
In February 2022, Saunyama sent six emails, initially to the employer and then to their solicitors. She removed her job title ‘client experience expert’ from her email signature, and inserted after her name ‘for and on behalf of IM LLP’. She described herself as the ‘representative’ of her acquaintance. And when the solicitor referred to Saunyama's acquaintance as "your client", she did not correct them.
In an email to the employer, Saunyama said that they were giving formal notice to proceed with the matter "via legal channels" and that they had been liaising with the Home Office and employment tribunal. Although, it later emerged that Saunyama had not made any contact with either the Home Office or the employment tribunal.
In March 2022, Irwin Mitchell received a complaint from the employer's firm about Saunyama's handling of the supposed employment tribunal matter.
IM launched an internal investigation and established that it had no record of acting for the purported client in the matter. In a disciplinary interview, Saunyama admitted that she was trying to help her acquaintance with the employment dispute and confessed that she had corresponded directly with the employer's solicitors.
Saunyama told the firm that it was her intention to pass the case on to IM’s employment dispute team. However, the firm found that she had made no attempt to do so.
Irwin Mitchell dismissed Saunyama for gross misconduct and reported her to the SRA.
The regulator has now published an agreed outcome stating that Saunyama acted without honesty and integrity and noting that she expressed regret for her conduct.
The SRA disqualified Saunyama from working at a law firm and ordered that she pay £675 for the costs of the investigation.