Filed it

"Filed it"


The SRA is prosecuting a junior solicitor who was spotted throwing a hearing date notification document in the bin, after she missed the hearing.

Susan Orton, who worked at BPE Solicitors in Cheltenham at the time, discovered that she had missed a preliminary hearing at the employment tribunal. She took the hearing notification documents from the file and put them in the office's locked confidential waste bins, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal was told. 

Orton told the tribunal that she "filed" the physical document in the bin in a moment "of sheer panic" when she wasn't thinking straight. She said she needed to get the mistake out of sight, to try to make her panic go down. But a secretary spotted Orton binning the documents, and reported the incident.

The SRA allege that Orton was dishonest as she attempted to conceal the "trivial mistake" by sending a misleading email to the employment tribunal saying that the firm had not been made aware of the hearing date. She also told a supervisor that she could not find the hearing notification in either the electronic or physical files, it was reported.  

Orton has denied that she acted dishonestly, and said that she made an "immense mistake but not a calculated act", as she was "thrown off balance" by what had happened. She said that was frightened and confused about what to do. 

The SRA told the disciplinary tribunal that Orton also acted dishonestly the day after the mistake was discovered, by telling senior colleagues at a meeting that she was not aware of the hearing notification.

But Orton reportedly said she was "ambushed" at that meeting, as she had been "taken into a room without any knowledge about what that meeting was about". She said "it felt very much like a casual encounter" and "by a slip of the tongue" she mistakenly told her colleagues that she had checked the "paper files", when she had "intended to say" she had checked the electronic files.

The hearing is expected to conclude this week. 

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Comments

Dearie 16 October 20 08:53

Sounds like a very good secretary to spot that - or else there were already concerns and sec was told to keep an eye on her.

Very foolish thing to do - should have fessed up the moment the mistake was realised. Lawyers aren’t struck off for making mistakes, only for trying to cover them up.

Anonymous 16 October 20 09:02

NEVER FORGET YOUR SECRETARY'S BIRTHDAY!!!

(Not something taught in law school but essential for any successful lawyer).

Frazza 16 October 20 09:13

So this junior solicitor gets prosecuted but the Partner who sexually assaulted someone gets a fine?

I hope I never have to rely on the SRA to act in my best interests in anyway. 

 

But yeah also, make friends with the secretaries always. 

Anonymous 16 October 20 09:48

Update on Law Society Gazette website. Found guilty of dishonesty but not struck off. Suspension instead. 

Anon 16 October 20 10:06

Yes! Always be nice to your PA and she'll do nice things for you, like call a client and blame herself for your errors 

 

...we had a postroom guy once who hid documents when he didn't know who to give them to. When we found the treasure trove of hearing notices, cheques etc. he got the boot.

Babybel 16 October 20 10:16

You have to wonder what the culture is like at the firm if her first reaction to a (fairly minor) mistake was to cover it up rather than seek help. Whatever else I might say about the firms I've worked at, I've never felt that I couldn't go to someone more senior and get help when I've cocked up. 

The solicitor was obviously wrong to act the way she did, but these things don't occur in a vacuum, and the firm should be considering whether the environment she worked in contributed to this 'moment of madness'. 

Anonymous 16 October 20 11:00

Less sympathy for her compared to other decisions. Her instant response per the reports was to try and cover it up. 

Tired of such cases 16 October 20 11:20

There are recurring themes here that the SRA simply needs to address: 

1. junior solicitors being scared to report relatively minor errors to their managers; and

2. the punishment of juniors when senior staff behave in ways that everyone (outside of law) would consider to be more worthy of sanction.

Anon 16 October 20 11:44

Why were the hearing dates and reminders not put on the departmental calendar? Sounds like bad organisation. 

Jessicatkin 16 October 20 11:46

Babybel - the culture at BPE is actually pretty amazing. I was diagnosed with autism after a pretty rocky ride at a number of firms post qualification. I've been out of the solicitor game now for a couple of years (since neuro diversity seems very unwelcome within law), but of the firms I worked for while still labouring under an erroneous depression and anxiety diagnosis, BPE were by far and away the best. Pretty good culture, decent work, approachable and supportive partners in the main. I was given significant help with a number of areas whereas other firms (HCR, ahem...) had simply subjected me to disciplinary hearings and kicked me to the kerb with threats hanging over my head. In fact, I think this is the one and only firm I worked at post qualification where I spent less than 10% off my lunch breaks crying in the toilets. Most of the others... Over 50%.

My two cents, for what it's worth, are that the firm didn't create the culture of fear. The SRA has done that by repeatedly shitting on the junior solicitors while protecting the old boys club. 

Anon 16 October 20 11:49

Why were the hearing dates and reminders not added to the departmental calendar?  Sounds like poor organisation. 

Anonymous 16 October 20 12:14

It seems the acquisition of his own shredder will have been an astude investment. "Notice of Hearing you say? Sorry mate doesn't ring a bell. Ignore that whirring sound - dodgy kettle". 

Don't get caught 16 October 20 12:21

Why didnt she wait until everyone had left or just take it home and bin it?

When will mental health be taken seriously 16 October 20 12:57

According to the gazette she had a mental health condition which at the time she didn’t know about and suffered from panic attacks. When will mental health be taken seriously? 

Mental 16 October 20 13:11

Was it an actual mental health condition (in which case fair play to her) or one of those convenient conditions that get discovered after someone messes up badly? 

Anonymous 16 October 20 14:51

It's management and culture.

If you work in a firm which acknowledges that everyone makes mistakes, you fess up and it gets sorted.

If you work in a firm with blame culture (and there are plenty of them) then people are scared to admit errors because they get disciplined and/or ostracised, so they cover it up or blame someone else, if they think they can get away with it.

The Human 16 October 20 15:50

Symptoms of panic attack include rapid breathing, feeling faint, sweating, and shredding of damning evidence.

There's a culture in law which doesn't tolerate screw ups yet we all know screw ups happen all the time. Having said which forgetting to attend a hearing would probably result in a written warning level disciplinary response if I was managing it.

nb123 17 October 20 08:49

She deliberately lied to the Tribunal, having already tried to cover her tracks by binning a Notice of Hearing. It wasn’t a ‘white lie’ in any sense, it wasn’t a clumsy or misplaced attempt to embolden her client’s position, it wasn’t just ‘misleading’, it was an ugly lie.

She then lied to the Partner and HR when they sat her down about it. She moaned at the hearing that they cornered her as she was expecting it to be a nice fluffy little conversation, which is apparently why she accidentally lied (again). She was 2PQE, not a paralegal straight out of uni.

This is not the same as various other outrageous decisions. What she did was completely unacceptable and an actual example of exactly the sort of conduct which is intolerable from a solicitor.

She deserved formal action, and they were right not to strike her off. The part that can’t be defended is the £20k costs order. 

Anon 17 October 20 09:08

Problem is due to reporting restrictions / Gdpr or whatever we don’t know what the mental health condition is. We just know it was described as “serious” . Sounds like we don’t have the full picture. 

Anonymous 20 October 20 11:48

The SRA really needs to call to account senior lawyers on whose watch this happens - you would see behaviours change quick-smart.

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