Just preparing to WFH.

A trainee solicitor who was sacked for gross misconduct after forwarding 106 work-related emails to her personal account has failed in an employment claim against her firm.

Wing Sze Siu began her training contract at Sterling Law, a London immigration specialist, in July 2021 but exactly a year later it was agreed that she would leave in December 2022.

Sterling Law co-founder Ruslan Kosarenko stated in evidence that multiple concerns had arisen around her performance.

The firm required trainees to bill four times their salary, and Siu, who was paid a starting salary of £35,000 plus a 20% billing commission for clients she introduced to the firm, appeared to be falling short of her £140k billing target.

Kurasenko said that he had received reports she was being rude to colleagues and refusing to attend the office during business hours, and that she had also granted refunds to eight clients without authorisation.

It also emerged that Siu had sent 106 emails containing telephone logs, data and internal documents related to clients and staff from her work email account to a private address.

Siu didn’t turn up for an HR meeting to address the various issues, and her attempt to explain under cross-examination why she had forwarded confidential information to her personal account was described by the tribunal as “somewhat evasive”.

“She provided no clear or satisfactory explanation as to why she had done so”, it said.

After her no-show at the HR meeting, Siu told the firm’s directors to process the £9,000 of client refunds she had unilaterally granted, and she was promptly suspended on full pay while the firm investigated her work activities.

Siu failed to attend a second meeting in September 2022, claiming she had covid, and said in her closing submissions that she had been afraid of in-person meetings because she was “at risk of not being able to leave the office alive in case of an emergency medical situation”.

Following her second no-show, Siu sent an email to the firm headed ‘Fraudulent Activities Sterling Lawyers Ltd’. Copied to the police, it alleged that Sterling Law had breached her data protection rights and that its compliance manager, Andrei Luca, had leaked client information and used Siu’s name to demand legal funds.

Siu did appear, by video, at third meeting, but it broke down in recriminations after 15 minutes and after failing to attend two further meetings she was sacked.

Siu sought to amend her claim by introducing allegations of race discrimination and bullying, and although her request was rejected because it arrived too late, at the tribunal she claimed that while working for Sterling Law she had experienced “torture and slavery directed at people of Chinese descent”.

The tribunal said its mission had been “significantly impeded” by Siu’s failure to produce a proper witness statement, but also by Luca’s failure to produce a proper report to support the disciplinary case against the trainee.

“Given that the Respondent is a law firm with a developed disciplinary policy, the approach that it adopted in its investigation of the Claimant’s professional conduct was seriously deficient and unsatisfactory”, it said.

During the hearing, each side introduced evidence of investigations being carried out by the SRA into the other, but “None of that documentation shed any real light on the substantive issues”, said the tribunal.

Although the evidence for much of Siu’s alleged misconduct was “too sketchy” to warrant her sacking, the tribunal concluded that her email heist “amounted to a fundamental breach of her contract of employment justifying summary dismissal”, and rejected her claim.

ROF understands that Siu has moved to Australia and is now a consultant helping students win places at UK universities.

Sterling Law, which sounds like a pretty interesting place to work at the moment, did not respond to a request for comment.


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Anonymous 08 December 23 11:16

Siu is a Cantonese name that only Hong Kong and people outside mainland China would use. More like discrimination against Hongkongers. But didn't the UK just give them free visa to settle in the UK, regardless of skills level?

A more credible fraud claim would be that the firm could be overcharging the clients.

Anonymous 08 December 23 11:34

It's amazing the hoops you have to jump through to get rid of someone when recruitment goes wrong. And it's inevitable that sometimes it will.

Salty Dog 08 December 23 14:02

Requiring trainees to bill multiples of salary is a silly concept, they're trainees for Pete's sake!

Dearie 08 December 23 14:05

Is it even legal to require trainees to be income generating when they ought to be supervised??!

Exception 08 December 23 14:41

Sometimes you have to send emails to your personal account (if for example you are looking at whistle-blowing, discrimination or unfair dismissal). You have to only take the ones you need for that purpose, but it's legit to do so.

Sir Woke XR Remainer FBPE MBE 09 December 23 17:13

Billing targets for trainers. LOL what a total joke shop.

Mark Ro 14 December 23 13:36

"sounds like a pretty interesting place to work at the moment"... at the moment when trainees are required to bill 4 times their salary. Imagine it after...

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