Irwin Mitchell contact centre worker pretended to be lawyer

Irwin Mitchell: Employee dismissed for gross misconduct

A contact-centre worker at Irwin Mitchell, who led another law firm to believe she was acting in an employment matter against its client, has been banned from working for law firms.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said Rachel Saunyama described herself as the “representative” of an acquaintance and at no time corrected the law firm’s reference to the friend as “your client”.

But Ms Saunyama was employed by Irwin Mitchell from October 2013 as a ‘client experience expert’, working in the firm’s customer contact centre. Her role did not include giving legal advice or acting for clients.

The SRA said Irwin Mitchell received a complaint from a firm of solicitors about a telephone call Ms Saunyama had made, in which she referred to a person she “acted for” in an employment matter which ended up at a tribunal.

Irwin Mitchell had no record of acting in the matter and began an investigation.

Ms Saunyama admitted having corresponded with the law firm, saying she was “trying to help an acquaintance with a dispute she was having with her employer”, and intended to pass on the case on to Irwin Mitchell’s employment dispute team.

But Irwin Mitchell found that “at no time” had Ms Saunyama tried to pass on the case and found she had deleted from her sent items all the emails sent to the law firm.

She was dismissed for gross misconduct in March 2022 and reported to the SRA.

The SRA found that Ms Saunyama emailed her friend’s employer from her work email address, “purporting to act” on her behalf, and after the employer instructed solicitors, Ms Saunyama emailed them.

In six emails to the employer and law firm, she removed her job title of ‘client experience expert’ and inserted after her name ‘for and on behalf of IM LLP’.

In one email, sent in February 2022, Ms Saunyama “confirmed that the email was formal notice that they intended to proceed with the matter ‘via legal channels’ and that they had been liaising with the Home Office and employment tribunal”.

The SRA said that at no time had she attempted or had any contact with either the Home Office or the tribunal.

Ms Saunyama admitted acting dishonestly and with a lack of integrity. As well as the ban, she was ordered to pay the SRA costs of £675.

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