A Proskauer Rose lawyer who lied to partners about passing an exam, claimed he was too afraid to admit his failure because of a toxic work environment.
Solicitor Michael Freeman, who was based in the London office of the US firm, had agreed to complete the Certificate of Proficiency in Insolvency, with the course being paid for by Proskauer Rose. Freeman skipped the sessions and never sat the exam, but told his supervisors that he'd passed.
The SRA prosecuted Freeman for dishonest conduct at a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing last month. Freeman claimed to the tribunal that he had no intention of being dishonest but that the "working environment" was the driving factor for him "acting out of character". Freeman said that a supervising partner (referred to in the judgment as "MF") often spoke to him "in an aggressive tone and raised voice".
"Fuck off up the corridor and become a Lego Lawyer" MF allegedly said to Freeman for taking a supposedly simplistic approach to his work (rather than this). MF allegedly told Freeman on another occasion that he could "fuck off and cry to HR". Freeman said that the bollockings made it very difficult to talk to MF.
A Proskauer Rose associate reflects on life as a Lego lawyer
MF admitted to the SRA that "occasionally we all swear" saying that it was "healthy and natural" to have open and frank discussions. He said that Freeman had never complained to him about it (presumably because the junior lawyer thought MF would rip out his bladder and wear it as a bandana, while screaming "why don't you fucking tell that to HR", RoF guesses).
As to Freeman trying to cover up his failure to complete the course, the tribunal heard that he had used a string of dog-ate-the-homework excuses when asked by his supervisors to produce his non-existent certificate. In one instance, Freeman told a supervisor (referred to as "PB" at the hearing) that it was difficult to retrieve the document because his home was being re-decorated. On another occasion he didn't have the certificate as it was at his ex-financeé's house. When PB spoke to him on the phone with instructions as to how to order a replacement certificate, Freeman said an urgent call had come in from a client and he hung up. 10 minutes after that conversation, perhaps realising that he couldn't feign an injury that would prevent him ordering a replacement certificate, he finally confessed that he hadn't passed the exam. The firm investigated the matter and gave Freeman the boot for gross misconduct.
The tribunal ruled that even if Freeman had been working in an uncaring environment (but did not accept that to be the case) he still could not be excused for his blatant dishonesty and deliberate wrongdoing. The tribunal ordered that Freeman be struck off the roll and pay £9,423 in costs.