The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended a solicitor for 6 months for creating "inaccurate" Facebook posts about her firm's achievements.
Irina Schwab was the sole shareholder of eponymous firm Schwab & Co Legal Services. She was also one of the two directors of the firm, along with her husband Adrian.
Between December 2017 and January 2019, Schwab posted the following updates on the firm's Facebook page, trumpeting a string of supposed successes:
- "Great result at Cambridge Magistrates Court! So pleased and proud to be able to represent our client, who eventually managed to prove her innocence!!!"
- "Double win today! Watford Family Court - successfully fought and suspended a prohibited steps order preventing a mother to leave the jurisdiction with the children. Milton Keynes County Court - successfully defended a set-aside application. The other party banned from making any further applications. Well done Irina Schwab and Adrian Schwab!"
- "Colchester County Court, 2nd January 2018. Successful eviction hearing on behalf of a landlord by Schwab & Co."
- "And another great result in Romford County Court by Adrian Schwab - a successful 'set aside' application for a client who realised too late that he had a CCJ against him."
The glowing posts were accompanied by photographs of court buildings, to perhaps convey authenticity.
However, the SRA investigated Schwab when it suspected her of breaching various regulatory rules. During the investigation, an SRA officer found discrepancies between Schwab's Facebook posts and the dates of the court hearings.
The solicitor admitted to the SRA that the bragging posts were "incorrect" and "misleading", as they related to occasions when "neither she nor someone from firm attended court." She described the posts as "pure marketing" to show that she was doing "some sort of activity" and "being active."
The SRA said that Schwab had shown a "lack of integrity" in trying to give the impression that her firm "had more business" than it had actually undertaken. The lawyer's actions in posting the inaccurate updates amounted to a breach of the rules requiring solicitors to "behave in a way which maintains the trust placed by the public in them," said the SRA.
The SRA also found that Schwab had breached other regulatory rules, such as failing to nominate a money laundering officer and incorrectly operating a client bank account.
In mitigation, the SRA found Schwab was not dishonest or that she had "deliberately or knowingly" acted in breach of the SRA's rules. Schwab's conduct was "borne out of a lack of understanding, rather than an attempt to mislead her regulator, or conceal matters from them", said the SRA.
In an agreed outcome with the regulator, Schwab was suspended for six months, with various restrictions put in place for two years after her suspension (such not becoming a sole practioner, or owner of a firm for that period). Schwab also agreed to pay the SRA's costs of £15,000.