Disguise

HM Land Registry didn't suspect a thing when she delivered the documents.


A junior solicitor who was struck off for faking her colleague's signature is appealing the decision in the High Court.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal banned Henna Zeb Khan from the profession for signing conveyancing documents using a senior colleague's name. The documents were submitted to HM Land Registry and the bank. 

The incident occurred in 2018 when Khan was a trainee at Bradford firm Stachiw Bashir Green Solicitors, but only came to light in 2019, a few months after Khan qualified. 

Khan, who represented herself at a two-day hearing in February, admitted that she had signed the documents in the name of a licensed conveyancer at the firm, Janet Butterfield, but claimed she had been authorised to do so. 

However, the SDT did not accept Khan had been expressly or implicitly authorised to replicate the signatures of Butterfield. The tribunal said that while it had "no doubt" that Khan "had a successful career ahead of her", she had committed a "gross act of dishonesty" and "demonstrated a clear lack of integrity." Khan was struck off the roll by  the SDT, and ordered to pay costs of £15,686.

Khan's appeal follows another struck-off junior solicitor, Claire Matthews, who was also recently granted permission to challenge the SDT's decision in the High Court.

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Comments

Anonymous 01 April 21 09:53

On what basis would she appeal?

Very sad this has happened, esp so when she was almost qualified. Does the judgement explain why the SDT thought she did this?

She already has to fork out £15.8k. How much more will she need to spend to take this to the High Court. The problem is that the other solicitors have denied giving her permission so the High Court will need to decide who is telling the truth, Khan or the other solicitors.

Anon 01 April 21 10:06

It’s dishonest and I can’t see the court setting a precedent that this is tolerated in so far as strike off isn’t likely as a consequence - it would set so many hares running.  

Bob 01 April 21 10:35

Anonymous 01 April 21 07:49

Why good luck to her? I am very sympathetic to juniors making mistakes and then being dealt with by an overzealous SRA / SDT combo but this is forgery of another individuals signature, this is major dishonesty. Even if a colleague asked her to do this she should have flat out refused as this has warning signs all over it and I imagine an individual who has spent the last 5 years going through legal education and training should have known better than to take a massive risk like this.

 

On another note, those costs are ludicrous for what should be a slam dunk case. Appeal costs will be eye watering if this anything to go by.

Anonymous 01 April 21 10:51

Yet another case in which you can't help but notice that the SRA are striking off a non-white (we mustn't say BAME, apparently) solicitor in circumstances in which you doubt they'd do it if the individual were white and male.

Would Mr Rupert Smith of A&O be struck off for faking a colleague's signature just for the sake of convenience? No harm done to anyone, but no explicit authorisation to do it. Can't help but think that a stern talking to would have been the end of it.

But hey, the so-called 'experts' say that the 'empirical evidence' proves that we live in a post-colonial society now, and that we should all just forget about The Empire as if it never happened and nobody was ever made an 'involuntary tourist' to America. 

 

Nothing to see here, just Ms Khan unjustly losing her livelihood. Move along, move along.

jamiestone1 01 April 21 11:50

This kind of practice (signing on behalf of others) is widespread in a lot of High Street and conveyancing firms

It is really shitty of the more senior person to throw this girl under the bus

Absolutely no motivation to forge signatures without authorisation

When I was paralegalling in 2014-2016 I was told to do this all the time, but I made sure that I had something in writing from the supervisor telling me to do it and that it was okay

Anonymous 01 April 21 12:28

One of my colleagues sent out a letter to a client with my electronic signature without my knowledge. I was f*cking livid and told him that if if he does it again, I will report him to the compliance officer and the SRA. He was really defensive about it - but I doubt he'll do it again.

Touker 01 April 21 12:57

@ Anon 10:51 stop trying to play the race card where it doesn't fit just so you can get kudos from your circle of liberal soy milk drinking friends. She was caught forging signatures, it does not take a genius to know that even if the senior employee told her to do this (which I highly doubt), she shouldn't have done it because of the huge risk. It's slam dunk blatant dishonesty and her race/ethnicity has nothing to do with it. Trainees of all races have been struck off for far less but I guess those facts don't fit into your narrative, which you doubtless crafted at your book club when Robin DiAngelo's book was the choice of the week.

I know you thought your comment was an absolute intellectual spirit bomb but you completely missed the mark.

Anonymous 01 April 21 14:02

Touker there, with some textbook 'nothing to see here' in the face of blatant racism. An attitude on which the sun will never set in the irredeemably structurally racist UK (well, England, if we're being honest).

 

What just is, is not always justice.

Judgment reader 01 April 21 14:59

So I’ve just read the judgment- para 28 states this is a straightforward case with limited complexity but noted the SRA had spent a large number of hours in preparation....

It then goes onto say in para 30 the SRA took a sensible and proportional approach to enforcement... 

I can't understand how in the space of 3 paras the judgment recognises the case should have been straight forward, did not require the level of preparation put into it yet, knocks down the costs by £7k yet says the SRA are proportionate and sensible. What is going on here?
 

 

 

Touker 01 April 21 16:16

@ Anon 14:02 where was the blatant racism in this case? Unless you're going to outline some facts, I would suggest you save your outrage for situations where there is actual proof of racism. It astounds me that people like you still don't see how playing the race card every time it is not relevant undermines the efforts to fight genuine cases of racism (which does exist, despite your attempt to straw man my point).

Anon 01 April 21 17:02

1402 - put up or shut up.  What is your evidence to demonstrate that the SRA came to a finding based on racism?   Set it out clearly please.  You can’t just make these types of accusations without evidence. That isn’t just, either.  

Anonymous 01 April 21 17:54

@16:16
Every week on ROF there are some "woke" rants. They are either trolling or from a student who will really struggle in the real world.

anon 01 April 21 18:32

References to racism being a factor in the case are pathetic.  I've been a solicitor for over 25 years and can honestly say during that time I cannot think of a single incident of racism that I have witnessed. Given the circumstances of this case why is race an issue?  We are supposed to be lawyers.  This is about whether they were authorised to use the signature or not, not whether they are called Rupert. The use of race to solely say a decision is wrong based on it demeans genuine times when it is an issue. 

Anonymous 01 April 21 22:58

Desperately sad to read of this young woman being thrown under the bus like this. I honestly have no doubt she was told/authorised by her colleague to do this. Easier said than done to resist a senior colleague’s instructions even if you know they wrong! As a paralegal/trainee I’ve been in this situation in both a high street and international firm. Raise your concern and they’ll gas light you and tell you “this is how it’s done in practice”.

Anonymous 01 April 21 23:24

[email protected] - good luck to her why because although she did something wrong the strike off was draconian. Just as male barristers shouldn't be punished too harshly, neither should female solicitors.

AbsurdinessBrown 02 April 21 04:51

Some firms are rotten. A junior lawyer who finds themselves in one needs to stand their ground when asked to do inappropriate things. It is part of the fitness for the profession that you don't do things out of fear or convenience. 

Even if you accept what she said happened, the ruling should stand. 

Anon 02 April 21 06:08

Signing documents on behalf of others (with their consent or at their direction)  was widespread when I was a junior lawyer. It was seen as normal practice and it was not even hidden. I was in a major city firm, not a conveyancing practice . I see now why it is wrong but as a new trainee in that firm I recall clearly being told to sign filing forms on behalf of a partner (there were nearly 120 of them, he signed half and I signed half for him). Signing legal opinions in the name of the firm was also very common (and remains so), even though they should be signed by partners only. 

Metoo 02 April 21 08:24

I agree with [email protected] This happens all the time. I am not even sure if it is unlawful/illegal, to sign a document on behalf of someone and with their consent. Its not very different to signing a document under a power of attorney, which is clearly fine. And both are very different to where you forge a document and sign without the persons consent. I can see that under a poa you sign using your own name, whereas I think the trainee in question purportedly signed for someone else and in their name.  But is that really a striking off offence, is the difference between both practices so huge? if the person you are singing for (who was more senior), is aware and asks you to sign for them?

I am applying for cable tv. My boyfriend messages me and tells me I forgot to sign the form I asked him to send. I say to him, “sign it for me please”. He does so. Is that really so dishonest, to warrant ruining my reputation and career?

I agree too that it is routine for juniors to sign documents on behalf of law firms, even though only partners are supposed to sign some documents. Its very routine. 

Sounds to me like SRA have targeted a junior for their virtue signalling ONCE AGAIN whilst taking no action against much more culpable behaviour amongst senior partners in law firms who can fight back more easily. 

Maisie 02 April 21 10:34

On a different note its time the SDT take some lessons on human rights and privacy. The gratuitous details concerning her finances and family unit was unnecesary for the purpose of the judgment. In another judgment they list an individual's charges on his property in excruciating detail.  Truely vile, cruel and barbaric especially as they appear to be selective as to who are subject to this treatment.

Anonymous 02 April 21 12:45

This decision seems harsh to me. Agree with others that signing on behalf of others is not that uncommon. While I wouldn’t apply someone else’s signature to a document without asking them for express approval every single time, I can see that in routine conveyancing that might be a bit much. 

Anonymous 02 April 21 13:44

Agreed Maisie, we see the same poring over male lawyers' sex lives and accompanying salivating speculation when they're named in investigations.

Anon 03 April 21 03:37

I am really very surprised with this decision. I can tell you that in the conveyancing world juniors signing routine documents on behalf of the firm or more senior lawyers is absolutely normal. There is an implied authority to do this when you are handling files with lots of forms to sign and you get told to handle everything. I know for a fact that if I were to go into the partners office with a big stack of documents to sign he would send me out and tell me to get on with it and only trouble him if there are any issues or questions (I know because he has done this more than once). The decision needs to be carefully revisited and the SRA need to get some input from the profession about what is very common practice. If the SRA do not like it, then they should target the senior partners in the profession who created the environment where this happens and it is standard, not the juniors who are just doing things the way it has always been done. Or the SRA should deliver a notice to the profession regarding these practices. The SRA needs to get its law right too - check the common law on signing documents and the doctrines of implied and actual authority. 

SRA needs a period of introspection and has to stop holding juniors to these standards. Where is the culpability which deserves ruining someone’s career over this?

Imagine if a partner in a big city law firm had signed a document or behalf of one of his or her partners who was away on business. That partner was authorised to do so and it was all part of getting a transaction done. Do you think SRA would have tried to destroy that partner’s career? Of course not. Enough said. 

PL 03 April 21 04:24

As a paralegal in a conveyancing firm, I can tell you all it is completely normal for me sign forms on behalf of the lawyers. We have 5 paralegals, I spoke about it to them after seeing the article and we all agreed. We are now a bit worried having seen what they did to the trainee that we could have troubles about this in the future.

DS 03 April 21 08:53

Senior partners in my firm were caught doctoring completed appraisal records of partners who were out of favour so that they could reduce their pay. They got caught red handed and ended up having to make a huge payout to silence a whistleblower. Nothing at all happened to them. They still lecture the rest of the firm about the “values” of the firm. When I see all these examples of the regulator holdings the junior end of the profession to such high standards I just shake my head.

Santa's Little Helper 06 April 21 16:05

There's a few comments about signing things "on behalf of" somebody else and that being typical etc.

I would expect your average adult to understand that you shouldn't sign using another individual's name. That's clearly different to signing on behalf of somebody else.

 

Je Suis Monty Don l’Autobus 06 April 21 16:18

What possible grounds could there be for concluding she wasn’t authorised to do this. In any event, if it was in execution of the client’s instructions it can hardly be described as a “gross” act of dishonesty. The SDT are fond of ponderous exaggerations aren’t they.

Hope she wins the appeal.

It’s notable that these striking-off cases against misguided juniors seem to fall mainly against women, isn’t it readers.

Anonymous 07 April 21 10:15

Je suis Monty Don, 6th @ 16.18 - I don't think its that women are any less honest or misguided, its just that there are more female than male trainees.

Santa's Little Helper 08 April 21 14:25

Does the SRA provide detail on how they categorise these things when it comes to sanctions? 

Dox 08 April 21 16:43

I can't see that it's addressed in the decision, but it would be interesting to compare the (supposed) signatures of the various individuals involved in this sad affair across, say, every conveyancing document filed by this firm for the last five years.  If they don't all match (within reasonable variations), someone has some explaining to do...

Anon 09 April 21 01:19

It might be fine to sign in someone's name with their approval (as she claims she did).

However - crucially - "the SDT did not accept Khan had been expressly or implicitly authorised to replicate the signatures of Butterfield".

That's the clincher.  On the facts - as the Tribunal found them - she was not authorised to do this so it was dishonest.

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