A former paralegal at City giant Herbert Smith Freehills has been banned from the solicitors’ profession after submitting multiple overtime claims with fake approvals on them.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said that Catherine Margaret Hunt should not be employed by another law firm except in accordance with its prior permission, under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974.
A notice published on Friday said Ms Hunt worked as a paralegal in the firm’s disputes department for just over seven years to January 2019.
Over the course of 10 weeks in autumn 2018, she submitted nine overtime claim forms for a total of 260 hours to the payroll department.
Herbert Smith became concerned that the claims were “unusually high”. Its overtime policy required a manager to approve and initial completed overtime claim forms, and Ms Hunt’s were initialled ‘AL’, who was a former manager.
The manager told the firm that they had not approved any overtime for Ms Hunt or initialled the overtime forms.
Ms Hunt was dismissed for gross misconduct and reported to the SRA. She admitted to the regulator that she had signed the initials and that her conduct was dishonest.
In deciding a section 43 order was appropriate, the SRA said: “Ms Hunt’s conduct makes it undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice because it was dishonest.
“The public, the profession and others are entitled to rely upon the honesty and integrity of the people that they deal with at solicitors’ firms. Ms Hunt’s actions have undermined trust in the provision of legal services and the solicitors’ profession.”
She was also ordered to pay costs of £300.