A trainee solicitor has been banned from working in the profession after altering the time and date on two emails in an attempt ‘to keep up with his work’.
Daniel Hall was a trainee solicitor at Liverpool firm Bermans between September 2018 and September 2020. According to a regulatory settlement agreement published by the SRA, Hall managed some conveyancing matters in August 2019 for a colleague while she was on annual leave, including six cases for the same client.
The SRA found that, during this time, Hall did not complete all the work he was asked to and subsequently misled his colleague, saying that he had taken the actions. He then produced two emails with the time and date removed to hide the time they were sent and – when this was queried – produced the same two emails but altered the times and dates, maintaining that the emails were sent as requested.
His colleague checked with the firm’s IT department who confirmed that the time and dates produced by Hall were incorrect and, in a meeting, Hall admitted he had tampered with the emails.
Hall was given a warning and the firm reported his conduct to the SRA in October 2019. The former trainee admitted that his behaviour had been intentionally misleading and dishonest. However, in mitigation, he said his personal circumstances had caused him a significant amount of worry and distraction at the time of the events.
He also said he felt under pressure from his workload as a trainee solicitor and said his actions were a result of him trying to keep up with his work.
The SRA issued a ‘section 43 order’, under which no solicitor can employ or remunerate Hall in connection with his practice as a solicitor and no recognised body can employ or remunerate him without the SRA’s prior permission. Hall also agreed to pay costs of £300.
‘Mr Hall’s conduct makes it undesirable for him to be involved in a legal practice because he has admitted he was dishonest,’ the SRA said. ‘His dishonest behaviour caused the client to be misled on the progress of their instructions and undermines the public’s trust in the provision of legal services and the solicitors’ profession. If such conduct were to be repeated in future, it would pose a risk to clients and public trust.’
The SRA has been criticised in the past for its harsh treatment of trainees and junior lawyers. Last year, the Junior Lawyers Division said it had lost confidence in the SRA to fairly prosecute young solicitors whose judgement is clouded by pressures of work.
The criticism followed the high-profile prosecution of recently-qualified Claire Matthews, who lied to cover her mistake of leaving sensitive documents on a train. Matthews, who was initially struck off, has now won the right to have her case re-heard.