A solicitor at Capsticks, the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) external lawyers, has been struck off for lying to a client and the firm about progress on a file.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that Mia Branchette, who did not appear and was not represented at the hearing, told the SRA: “I will not respond further to any allegations made against me or suffer the humiliation of any tribunal.”
Ms Branchette was admitted in September 2014 and worked for Capsticks for little more than a year, between August 2017 and October 2018, in the litigation department of the firm’s Leeds office.
Capsticks reported her to the SRA in September 2018, following “concerns raised by one of its clients regarding delay on a debt recovery matter”.
Ms Branchette had left the office earlier in the month “having been taken unwell” and “did not return to the office thereafter”.
The SDT found that the solicitor had made statements to the client which were “untrue and were likely to mislead them” as to the progress of proceedings.
She had also made untrue and misleading statements about the proceedings in September 2018 to Capsticks. In both cases she was found to have acted dishonestly.
There was no evidence that she had created, let alone issued, a statutory demand, sent chaser letters or issued proceedings during the nine months when she had told the client she had. Her claim to have passed the file to a colleague was also rejected.
Ms Branchette denied all the allegations. In an email to the SRA in January this year, she complained of a “personal vendetta against me” by an employee of Capsticks.
“I cannot endure this long, torturous experience any longer. I have no access to any correspondence or files and so am immediately at a disadvantage.
“I have neither the resources or energy to fight this case, which I feel has already been decided against me.”
Mr Branchette said working as a solicitor had been a “privilege and honour” but she no longer had the “love for the profession, confidence needed or ability to work in the sector” and with a “heavy heart” was resigned to the fact that the SDT would remove her from the roll.
“I will not respond further to any allegations made against me or suffer the humiliation of any tribunal. I cannot fund any defence or the investigation itself as I am out of work and now have no savings.
“I give permission to be removed from the roll with immediate effect.”
The SDT found that the solicitor had told the client a statutory demand had been served when it had not even been created.
She had not passed the file to a colleague, as claimed, and lied when she said proceedings had been issued.
She later told the client she would “chase the court for an update” and stated that the court had confirmed receipt of papers, when no papers had been sent.
She misled the head of litigation at Capsticks by saying she would contact the court and suggesting the client did not understand the “complexities” and delay involved.
Ms Branchette was also found to have made false statements to an HR manager at the firm, stating that the statutory demand had been filed.
The tribunal said she had “knowingly misled her client for nine months and had then misled her employer in order to conceal the lack of progress”.
The SDT dismissed her suggestion that “someone at the firm held a vendetta against her” and might have deleted documents as “fanciful and untenable, lacking any credibility given the total absence of evidence”.
Instead, she had “deliberately and knowingly misled both her client and the firm”, motivated by her desire to conceal failure to progress the case.
Ms Branchette’s misconduct was “deliberate, calculated and repeated, and had continued over a period of time”, and while she was “not very experienced, her misconduct did not relate to her inexperience”.
She was struck off and ordered to pay £5,770 in costs.