A young solicitor has been struck off the roll of solicitors in England and Wales by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in the UK (the “Tribunal”) for having enhanced and fabricated her academic results and work achievements.
In a trainee application in 2011, Ms Tania Ruby Bains inflated her academic results and included results for subjects which she had not in fact studied. Ms Bains claimed the factual inaccuracies were an “honest mistake” as she had recalled her results from memory. Ms Bains was admitted to the roll of solicitors in 2015.
On a further occasion in 2015, Ms Bains provided a CV to a recruitment agency which not only embellished her academic qualifications but also her work experience. Ms Bains claimed that she had carried out work projects which the Tribunal found she had not. Ms Bains included work carried out by an Associate which she had not even been involved with. The CV also contained extracts copied “almost word for word” from CVs of Ms Bains’ colleagues, including the personal profile, interests and activities. In an email to one of her colleagues Ms Bains offered to share her CV “not for info but for the hilarity of the embellishment.”
The Tribunal took account of Ms Bains three years’ of experience as a paralegal prior to 2011 and found that Ms Bains had “knowledge and understanding of the legal environment”. As a result, the Tribunal rejected submissions that just because Ms Bains was not a trainee solicitor at the time of the first incident that the rules did not apply. It was found that Ms Bains was well aware of “the standard expected of perspective solicitors”. The Tribunal found that an “honest person who genuinely could not recall academic credential would have sent a covering letter or email” and would have proactively taken steps to inform the employer of the true position.
Ms Bains was found to have breached the Solicitors Code of Conduct. The Tribunal considered that Ms Bains acted with a lack of integrity and was dishonest. When considering the appropriate sanction the Tribunal gave weight to the fact that it did not have confidence that Ms Bains’ conduct would not be repeated, considering the second incident was “more brazen than the first”. The Tribunal noted that it considered suspending Ms Bains but ultimately found it was necessary to strike Ms Bains off the Roll of Solicitors in order to “protect the public and the reputation of the profession and maintain confidence in the profession”.
A complaint of misconduct against a solicitor in Ireland may be considered by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The statutory definition of misconduct in the Solicitors Acts, 1954 to 2008, includes, but is not restricted to, “conduct tending to bring the solicitors’ profession into disrepute”. The Law Society’s “A Guide to Good Professional Conduct for Solicitors” 3rd Edition, also provides that, in addition to the legislative requirements, solicitors are required to observe general core principles of conduct, and in particular honesty.
Indeed, the Codes of Conduct of most, if not all, of the regulated professions in this jurisdiction include similar provisions regarding honesty and integrity.
When it comes to furthering one’s career regulated professionals should keep in mind that “honesty is the best policy”.