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.


Kitchen

"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.

Whiting is still mentioned on the firm's website as being in the Residential Property team. Sadly, this bottle-blonde seems to have disappeared.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 07 August 20 09:24

Nope. Her name's gone from the website. What the f*ck are the SRA up to? This is minor reprimand territory for the junior law and kick up the arse for thr senior lawyers for lack of supervision. More importantly, what are the SRA doing about dark money flowing through West End and Midtown firms for foreign powers and money launderers? Answer: less than nothing.

Anonymous 07 August 20 09:55

If Blacks has supported her up to this point, surely they should do the decent thing and apply to the SRA for her to stay at the firm

Dearie 07 August 20 10:00

Yet oddly she could walk into an unregulated 'conveyancing shop' tomorrow and continue working. SRA is an out of date nonsense. 

Talon 07 August 20 10:04

Another difficult one; I find it hard to understand what would drive someone to act like this (although it has happened at a firm I worked at).  It is right that the SRA treat all dishonesty seriously but I don't rate this anywhere near as severe as some of the other recent cases.  Surely a "final warning" would have been sufficient, particularly if she had the backing of the firm.

Mountain 07 August 20 10:11

The original mistake was excusable. Fabricating documents to cover it up wasn't.

Anonymous 07 August 20 10:40

Not a completely black and white case, but I think the SRA got this one right. I'd be cheesed off if I was the client or the purchaser of that house. The onus seems to be on the firm to continue to back her and make that request to the SRA. 

Anon 07 August 20 14:28

“This is minor reprimand territory”. 
 

No, the profession has a real issue with dishonest, untrustworthy and unethical solicitors and paralegals and it is causing real damage to the reputation of the profession.  The SRA is clear that it won’t tolerate dishonesty in the course of providing legal services and has to take stern action otherwise it sends a message that this is all ok.  Lying to clients is just not ok.  

Anonymous 07 August 20 15:04

"Lying to clients is just not ok."

 

I think we can go a bit further than that.  Lying is just not ok.  Not to clients or courts or the other side or anyone else.  Negotiations are one thing, declarations are another.  Once you allow lying in the profession then "the law" loses all meaning and you might as well just award the case to whoever shouts "I swear on me muvver's life" loudest.

Anon 07 August 20 18:56

@Anonymous 07 August 20 15:04

Of course - but it wasn’t claimed that lying to non clients is Ok.  The reference to clients was because the facts in this case raise that a specific issue.   That said, the SRA is clear that in terms of gravity and aggravating factors, dishonesty involving clients is at the worst end of the spectrum.  

Anonymous 10 August 20 09:30

@ Anon 07 August 20 23:42

 

Or maybe their comment made total sense in context and yours added absolutely nothing?

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