The SRA has prohibited a paralegal from working in a legal practice, after she lied to cover up an error and fabricated a letter.
Amy Whiting was working as a conveyancing paralegal at Blacks Solicitors and acted for a client selling new build homes. In January 2019, the client sent a house plan to Whiting that erroneously included a garage, but later provided the correct version to her. However, the paralegal neglected to forward the revised version to the buyer's solicitor and exchange of contracts took place with the wrong plan.
The error eventually came to light - perhaps when the befuddled buyer was searching around their new house for a garage. But Whiting did not fess up to the firm and the client, and instead claimed that she'd sent the updated plan to the buyer's solicitor. She fabricated a backdated letter purporting to enclose the amended plan.
The firm launched an internal investigation and on discovering Whiting's dishonesty, issued a written warning to her, and reported the matter to the SRA.
"I imagined the garage to look different from the plan."
Whiting admitted to the regulator that she'd been dishonest. In mitigation, she said that she'd been under a lot of pressure due to the "volume of work" and "very difficult personal circumstances". She said that Blacks Solicitors had "considered her conduct, offered additional support and decided to keep her in her post." She said that she had "been working hard" at the firm since the incident "to honour the trust placed in her".
The SRA held that Whiting's conduct made it "undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice because it shows that she has been dishonest and may mislead her clients", and prohibited her from being employed by a solicitor or firm without the SRA's prior permission. Whiting agreed to pay the SRA's costs of £300.
Under the SRA's decision (a Section 43 Order), Blacks Solicitors could apply to the regulator for permission to keep Whiting as an employee, should the firm wish to do so. The guidance says the SRA can approve such an application if various conditions are met such as the firm closely supervising and monitoring her.
Given that Whiting said in mitigation that the firm had supported her, RollOnFriday asked Blacks Solicitors if the firm would make an application to the SRA. The firm declined to comment.
The SRA also declined to comment.