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 Lego law" 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. 


Proskauer Rose

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.

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Comments

Dearie 11 October 19 10:13

I know MF and he is an amazing lawyer and all round lovely chap (and no, I don't work at Proskauer). His comment about lego law is spot on. Sounds like the guy just wasn't very good. Very silly to throw away a career like that.

Anonymous 11 October 19 10:50

Struck off! That seems quite tough for a 4pqe associate compared to the small fine imposed on a Freshfields partner from practically raping a junior associate (RoF of today).

I get that dishonesty is a big no-no in our profession but not-raping should probably be up there too.

MT 11 October 19 12:03

I like how this guy got struck off, while a barrister was supplying a class A drug and assaulted 3 people and got a month's suspension. Perfectly fair, perfectly normal.

a perfectly normal human being 11 October 19 13:48

Seems utterly nuts given that the exam concerned was not one that is required for practice nor, I assume, a condition of his employment.

Anonymous 11 October 19 17:53

Strike-off not appropriate here.

Worth reading the Freshfields case again - even the SDT, despite the process being unfair, made clear (albeit at the end of the process) that consent was not part of the claim they were considering.

Anon 11 October 19 21:51

SDT policy is very clear - partners etc can break all the rules, client confi etc and not get struck off - Male one mistake before then and your done!

Teclis 12 October 19 01:29

Dishonesty is dishonesty folks.

I had to take a couple of swipes at the CFQ 2nd paper, it was embarrassing but I got it done and didn’t lie.  He did.

Goodbye old bean!  It’s ok to fail every now and again, but do not break trust and lie about it.

 

Anon 12 October 19 12:16

Well, Lord Lester QC was found to have made unwanted sexual advances to a woman and abused his position, and the House of Lords recommended that he be suspended from membership of the House. But he was not sanctioned by the BSB.

Anonymous 12 October 19 17:17

'Male's one mistake indeed 11th October @21.51. Partners can break all the rules except the new moral code it seems.

Anonymous 12 October 19 17:20

In reality the Lords decided that the process by which Lord Lester was judged was unfair. He resigned from the Lords due to the toll the process took on his health. He referred himself to the BSB, who completely cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Anon 14 October 19 18:04

Lester was not “cleared” by the BSB. He was given clearance to practise, which is difference. It was decided by the BSB that, despite being found guilty of sexual harassment and abuse of position, that conduct was not worthy of professional sanction.

Anonymous 14 October 19 20:24

The Lords Commissioner found Lester guilty after a process which was widely criticised as unfair, which was voted by the Lords to have been such, and which ignored much of the available evidence. The Lords Conduct Committee said they agreed with the findings of the Commissioner. The Lords voted to recognise that the Commissioner had made findings and that the Committee said they recognised those findings. They didn't agree with the findings or say that they were fair. Lester had by this time resigned from the Lords due to the strain put on his health by the whole matter. So the Lords have never actually found Lester guilty following a fair process.

Lester referred himself to the BSB who completed an investigation and cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Legal Alien 15 October 19 17:54

The CPI? F*ck me this is not even the JIEB.

 

Insolvency practitioners refer to this one as the "Cycling Proficiency" exam that's how easy it is. He should have just sat the thing.

Anon 16 October 19 21:16

As for Lord Lester, the House of Lords upheld the findings of the Committee and recommended that Lord Lester be suspended. He resigned before that suspension could be implemented.

The initial vote was that the process was unfair. The matter was then remitted to the Committee to reconsider; the Committee concluded the process was fair; the Lords then reconsidered the matter and voted to approve the conclusion of the Committee that the process was fair. So the Lords decided the process was fair.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2018-12-17/debates/E9E8AE1E-3CD4-4166-BCF9-0765260054A9/PrivilegesAndConductCommittee

“The Senior Deputy Speaker

The noble Lord said that there were six contemporaneous witnesses. We invite Members to read their accounts.

In her own words,

“on the basis of the strong and cogent evidence of the complainant and her witnesses”,

the commissioner found that Jasvinder Sanghera was a victim of sexual harassment and that Lord Lester was guilty of a grave abuse of power. The Committee for Privileges and Conduct reviewed and endorsed this view. We ask the House to do the same. I hope the House will now agree to this report.

Motion agreed.”

Anonymous 17 October 19 12:45

Actually the Lords Commissioner found Lester guilty after a process which was widely criticised as unfair, which was voted by the Lords to have been such, and which ignored much of the available evidence. The Lords Conduct Committee said they agreed with the findings of the Commissioner. The Lords voted to recognise that the Commissioner had made findings and that the Committee said they recognised those findings. They didn't agree with the findings or say that they were fair. Lester had by this time resigned from the Lords due to the strain put on his health by the whole matter. So the Lords have never actually found Lester guilty following a fair process.

Anon 17 October 19 19:39

As for Lord Lester, the House of Lords endorsed the findings of the Committee that (a) Lord Lester was guilty; and (b) the process which determined Lord Lester’s guilt was fair.

So despite being found guilty, after a fair process, of sexual harassment and abuse of position, Lord Lester was not sanctioned by the BSB.

Anonymous 18 October 19 08:04

The Lords Commissioner found Lester guilty after a process which was widely criticised as unfair, which was voted by the Lords to have been such, and which ignored much of the available evidence. The Lords Conduct Committee said they agreed with the findings of the Commissioner. The Lords voted to recognise that the Commissioner had made findings and that the Committee said they recognised those findings. They didn't agree with the findings or say that they were fair. Lester had by this time resigned from the Lords due to the strain put on his health by the whole matter. So the Lords have never actually found Lester guilty following a fair process.

Lester referred himself to the BSB, who cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Barrister 18 October 19 08:39

The Hansard report speaks for itself. The House voted to endorse the findings of the Committee that Lester was guilty of sexual harassment and abuse of position. That is why they recommended that he be suspended. In turn, that is why he referred himself to the BSB when the House reached its decision. (No need if the House had rejected the Committee’s decision and thereby exonerated him.)

The issue before the BSB was whether, despite his conduct, he should be given clearance to practise. The BSB gave him such clearance. That shows the huge gulf between the approaches of the SRA and the BSB.

Not a Barrister Too 18 October 19 10:59

The Lords Commissioner found Lester guilty after a process which was widely criticised as unfair, which was voted by the Lords to have been such, and which ignored much of the available evidence. The Lords Conduct Committee said they agreed with the findings of the Commissioner. The Lords voted to recognise that the Commissioner had made findings and that the Committee said they recognised those findings. They didn't agree with the findings or say that they were fair. Lester had by this time resigned from the Lords due to the strain put on his health by the whole matter. So the Lords have never actually found Lester guilty following a fair process.

Having not been found guilty of anything by a fair process, Lester referred himself to the BSB. The BSB in turn completely exonerated Lester of any wrongdoing.

Lester isn't regulated by the SRA, but given that he hasn't been found guilty of anything following a fair process, it would be surprising if the SRA took a different view, especially since he isn't regulated by them.

anon 18 October 19 11:58

It really is staggering that Lester was given clearance to practise, having been found guilty of sexual harassment.

Solicitors are held to a far higher standard, it would seem.

Anonymous 18 October 19 13:04

It would have been staggering if he wasn't given clearance to practice, 11.58, given that he wasn't found guilty of anything by a fair process. Given his age and the unfairness of the process, many people view him as the victim.

Lester isn't regulated by the SRA, but given that he hasn't been found guilty of anything following a fair process, it would be surprising if the SRA took a different view.

Anonymous 18 October 19 13:20

If he’d been a solicitor, he’d have been struck off. 

Guilty of sexual harassment and abuse of position, following a fair process. 

I spoke to the BSB. All this is publically available information. He was not cleared of wrongdoing. The BSB had to consider whether, in light of what he had been found to have done, he could continue to practise. It was determined that he could. 

And that is the nub of the debate here: there is a real difference of approach between the SRA and BSB. 

 

Anonymous 18 October 19 15:25

Lord Lester wasn't found guilty of anything by a fair process. Given his age and the unfairness of the process, many people view him as the victim.

He was completely cleared of wrongdoing by the BSB. The BSB didn't find he had done or recognise that anyone else had found he had done anything. In light of the fact he wasn't found to have done anything, he was cleared to continue to practice.

Lester isn't regulated by the SRA, but given that he hasn't been found guilty of anything following a fair process, it is not true that he would have been struck off.

The nub of the debate is that Lester hasn't been found guilty of anything following a fair process.

Concerned 18 October 19 17:39

“Lord Lester wasn't found guilty of anything by a fair process. Given his age and the unfairness of the process, many people view him as the victim.

He was completely cleared of wrongdoing by the BSB. The BSB didn't find he had done or recognise that anyone else had found he had done anything. In light of the fact he wasn't found to have done anything, he was cleared to continue to practice.

Lester isn't regulated by the SRA, but given that he hasn't been found guilty of anything following a fair process, it is not true that he would have been struck off.

The nub of the debate is that Lester hasn't been found guilty of anything following a fair process.”

I am new to this comment section and reading the commentary. Are you OK? You just seem to be copying and pasting your previous outpourings, rather than engaging with the arguments. Get help. It has been amply demonstrated that the House of Lords banged Lester to rights; and you have said nothing to gainsay what the person above said, based on his/her call to the BSB. You might not like the result for Lester but, when it comes to your ability to debate, the Emperor has no clothes.

Not a Concerned Anonymous Barrister Too 18 October 19 18:26

No help needed - as none of the posts attacking Lester, whether by different people or by the same person pretending to be different people, Concerned, make any new points, it can only be repeated that Lester hasn't been found guilty of anything by a fair process, was completely cleared by the BSB, and isn't regulated by the SRA.

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