The SRA has prohibited a paralegal from working in a legal practice, after she misled the court with a fabricated email.

Sana Patel was employed as a litigation paralegal at Lowells Solicitors in Leeds. She had to pay a court fee by 17 July 2019 to ensure a debt recovery claim was not struck out.

Patel mistakenly thought that she had paid the fee in time, but the court told her a week later that she'd missed the deadline and the claim was struck out.

To dupe the court, Patel altered an email on another matter where she had made a timely payment to the court, pretending that it related to the struck out case. The court was fooled by Patel's forged email and reinstated the case.

But the paralegal was rumbled when Lovells discovered that no fee had actually been paid. The firm questioned Patel, who confessed that she had deceived the court. The firm subsequently alerted the court, and the case was struck out. Lowells dismissed Patel and reported her to the SRA in October 2019.


Cover up

It's the cover up that gets you


Patel admitted to the regulator that she had been dishonest, and expressed regret and remorse for her actions. 

The SRA held that Patel's conduct made it "undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice because it demonstrates that she has a propensity to mislead others". The regulator prohibited her from being employed by a solicitor or firm without the SRA's prior permission. Patel agreed to pay the SRA's costs of £300.

Under the SRA's decision (a Section 43 Order), a firm could apply to the regulator for permission to employ Patel. The guidance says the SRA can approve such an application if various conditions are met such as the firm closely supervising and monitoring the employee.

The SRA also opted for a Section 43 Order in another recent case involving a dishonest paralegal. 

Lowells Solicitors did not respond to a request for comment. 

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Comments

Anonymous 18 September 20 09:25

It's never the negligence (that's why you have insurance), it's always the cover up.

Mr V. Vineik 18 September 20 09:36

Always admit your mistakes and be honest about what went wrong. It's less horrible and the pain shorter-lived than you might imagine.

Anon 18 September 20 09:59

Of course - you know what's interesting, we see a lot of rich old white men who have shown a propensity to mislead others - like for example senior partner nominations committees and such like and yet those guys are still allowed to practice! Funny that!

For the avoidance of doubt I don't disagree with the SRA's decision in this case, as its a paralegal I am going to hazard this is a young individual, trying to impress, trying to make a career who made what was at first an honest (but pretty damning) mistake and then f***ed big time.  The individual made poor choices and will have to live with the consequences unfortunately, its a shame that there isn't a half-way house, say 3 year or 5 year restriction. 

My objections to SRA enforcement are that they never kick out the people who have the financial firepower to fight back which means the people who have been in the profession for 30 years, are role models and should know better get to stick around and that to me is a pretty sad indictment of any profession.

Dearie 18 September 20 11:14

The decision is the right one but what about the firm? It doesn't speak highly that a paralegal can issue a claim without supervision aka the "various conditions are met such as the firm closely supervising and monitoring the employee." which is a basic standard wen employing paralegals surely? 

Anonymous 18 September 20 11:44

@09:59

Any legitimate reason to bring race into it? Its going far too common to demonize white men for the sake of it.

It just creates barriers.

Anonymous 18 September 20 12:11

Actually, Anon @11:44, it's "rich old white men" who are responsible for all of this. By creating a patriarchal 'court service' in which capitalist fees have to paid 'on time' (in and of itself an inherently masculine construct) they have institutionalised a system which is structurally biased against anyone who refuses to follow its norms. If it weren't for men, especially white ones, creating oppressive rules about the timely payment of court fees then Sana would be enjoying a flourishing legal career right now.

Instead, it's yet another BAME woman being thrown out of the law. Which I think speaks for itself. A clear example of Indirect Discrimination in which the UK BAME community has been disproportionately affected (making up 100% of the people subject to these crypto-fascist restrictions on their freedom to practice law).

Ask yourself this - would the SRA have done the same thing to a white male paralegal called Percy? Hmmm? 

Perhaps we don't do this? 18 September 20 13:46

@12:11, I would hope your message is a parody, since otherwise I would need to call it out as utterly devoid of sense and coherence in the view of reasonable members of society.

Anonymous 18 September 20 13:51

@12:11

You're kidding me? AT first I thought you were joking but it seems you're seriously saying that she only thrown out of law due to being a BAME woman. 

Who is upvoting that rubbish!?

She lied to the courts. Person do bad thing. Bad person must be punished. How is that difficult to understand?

Anonymous 18 September 20 13:52

Now she will be hired by experienced criminals who particularly looking for dishonest legal professionals so they can receive legal advice for cheap and can use all the tricks of dishonest solicitors

Regulatorylawyer 18 September 20 14:16

I agree with the sentiments some of the previous posters have expressed - It was a dishonest act, she should have admitted her mistake, the attempt to cover up made things worse and there had to be a serious sanction but perhaps something less than striking off would have been more fair. The regulator should not underestimate that panic and even despair that can set in when a junior in the profession makes a mistake, especially where he or she is in an unforgiving, overworked and poorly supervised environment. Judgments get clouded and attempts to cover up can happen. 

The SRA also need to properly investigate cases where there is bad behaviour from management and not let the firms self certify “nothing to see here” to push SRA away when allegations are made.

 

Anonymous 18 September 20 15:05

@13:51, how could I be joking about something as serious as this? 

Are you denying the fact that 100% of the people banned from the Old Boys Club of the legal profession here are BAME? All just because they refused to comply with an imperialistic rule (which originated during the fascist British Empire) that they pay court fees by particular times, and no doubt in specified amounts which they are forced to pay in a white currency like 'pounds sterling'.

How will we ever reach proper diverse representation of 50% BAME in the legal profession (and at partner level, not just fake so-called 'Senior' Associate roles) if we keep cancelling BAME careers for nothing more than wilfully deceiving the court service?

The SRA would NEVER have done this to a white male paralegal with a name like 'Quentin' or 'Clarence'. They would probably have invited them out to play golf and to 'network' at the East India Club for a high paying City role instead. That's how the patriarchy perpetuates itself and keeps BAME people out of the prestigious careers they deserve.

MC 18 September 20 15:07

[email protected], are firms allowed to self certify “nothing to see here” as you say? Don’t SRA have to investigate when serious allegations are made?

I used to work in an Asian office of a big UK firm. There was a big scandal a couple of years back when a partner asked the firm to look into some serious allegations. They refused to and it all escalated as they closed ranks. They ended up paying off and NDA ing him and eventually made an apology but without telling us what had happened and he left the firm. Many of us gave the firm the benefit of the doubt until a document the firm had prepared as part of the case (that was going to arbitration before the payoff), started doing the rounds. It had been left in the print room after being copied and one of the previous trainees came across it. It was quite shocking, turns out the allegations were backed up with clear email evidence which pointed to some really bad behaviour at a senior level. I confess I was one of those who read the paper. The behaviour was clearly far more culpable than the examples of junior lawyers who get the SRA finishing their careers. I am not a reg lawyer but don’t see how the firm got away without being sanctioned by SRA. 

Anonymous 18 September 20 15:12

@13:51, you say "Person do bad thing. Bad person must be punished.

I'm going to guess that you're white?

Perhaps you need to reflect for a bit on the difference between 'Justice' and 'Law Enforcement'.

Your insistence on dogmatically punishing rule-breakers just for breaking the rules is an attitude widely shared by white supremacists.

Anon 18 September 20 15:16

@ 13:51

Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

RegulatoryLawyer 18 September 20 15:27

MC @ 1507, the firm should self report to the SRA conduct which could amount to a breach of the SRA principles. If there has been a failure to report in the case you mention and assuming a report should have been made, or (even worse), if there was a misleading report given to SRA by the firm (“nothing to see here”) to protect culpable partners, then the firm and anyone in management who was complicit could find itself in some very hot water. Misleading the regulator is the most serious offence.
 

In truth, I am aware of a few examples of firms behaving like this and who use NDAs to silence those with potentially harmful information. It of course usually happens when needed to protect partners/management, and a junior lawyer would more likely be thrown under the bus. SRA are reluctant to go after management in a big, well resourced and powerful firm. Better to focus on the paralegal and trainees. 

 

Trevor Mealham 19 September 20 04:53

Leeds is a hotbed of fraud. As a (former adviser of property fraud and 3MLD and 4MLD) and 13 time in court LiP who fell victim to Lloyds Bank BSU doing "BAIT and Switch" fraud on my business. I have met many victims where lawyers in Leeds have lied, cheated and concealed evidence with the mindful intent to asset strip. 

Anonymous 19 September 20 14:56

@15:12 

Half Saudi and half french heritage.

Awkward. I guess you should pipe down considering I'm not white and that doesn't fit your narrative.

Some odd comments on ROF today.

BAME Lawyer 20 September 20 17:34

As a BAME lawyer who practiced in English and US law firms in the city, leaving at senior associate/counsel level, I do have significant sympathy with the view that BAME professionals in law suffer from a intrinsically un-meritocratic partnership selection process - that strongly favours those that conform to the pre-existing leadership demography.

However, even I think that to suggest that this paralegal was treated unfairly solely on account of her race/BAME status, is a real stretch.  I think the penance is harsh, but she displayed severe dishonesty.  I believe a white paralegal named "Percy" would've got the same treatment... however, a white, rich 50 yr old partner with a fancy legal team to defend him, I suspect would've got off far more lightly. A brown, rich, 50 yr old partner, would've probably got off rather more lightly than this girl too.  It's ironic as I think common sense would suggest that a lack of experience should be a mitigating factor in sentencing... rather than aggravating!

In terms of justice systems, I don't think the SRA is unique in its inability to deliver a consistent standard of justice irrespective of wealth, power or race.

Anon 20 September 20 19:56

Terrible attempt at satire there at 12:11 - why are right wingers generally not funny?

Anonymous 21 September 20 10:02

@14:56

I assume that it's the French side of you that wants to persecute her because she's black, and the Saudi side that wants to persecute her because she's a woman?

Or do both sides of you just hate poor innocent Sana equally?

Anonymous 21 September 20 11:21

*Lowells* not Lovells. The esteemed firm formerly known as Lovell White & King (or "lovely, white and clean" as us old lags knew it) probably wouldn't get anywhere near it.

Anonymous 23 September 20 10:50

I can't believe how many people cannot identify the BAME comment as parody. Worrying.

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