A trainee at Ropes & Gray has been banned from the profession for forgery.
'B' was a trainee at the US firm's London office from August 2016 until her departure in February 2018.
In order to disguise the fact that a share certificate had been lost (it happens), B created a new one (fine) and traced the client's signature onto it (ah). She then sent the dummy certificate to a third party, telling them, and a Ropes & Gray colleague, that it was the original.
The SRA decided that B's tea-stained attempt at spycraft meant that she had been dishonest, lacked integrity and undermined the trust the public placed in the provision of legal services, breaching the SRA Principles 2011.
But because she wasn't a solicitor, it could not punish her directly. Instead, having found that she engaged in conduct "of such a nature" that "it would be undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice", it used section 43(1A) of the Solicitors Act 1974 to bind all solicitors to keep her out of the profession.
"Great work everyone, I just had a couple of questions about the certificate."
Having begun a promising career at a US firm enjoying a £50,000 salary as one of Ropes & Gray's seven or so second year trainees, she is now locked out of law, with the SRA ordering that no solicitor, recognised body or employee of either can employ or pay B without permission from the regulator.
For failing to come clean about a lost piece of paper, B was also given a written rebuke, fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,600.
A spokesman for Ropes & Gray said, “This is a SRA matter and, as such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment. We can confirm that [B] no longer works at the firm.”
Sometimes the high-pressure environment in which a junior lawyer is found to have worked has been a factor in their exoneration, such as last year when a paralegal was cleared by the High Court for his role in his boss' fraud. Not always, though. In 2015 a trainee was banned under the same statute for forging his law degree and LPC certificate. In 2016 a junior associate at DLA Piper was struck off for forging court documents. And, earlier this year, an NQ was struck off for overcharging clients, even though she was bullied by partners and reported the fraud to the SRA.
Update 5/10/20: ROF has hidden B's name because we’re good eggs and there were good reasons to do so.