A legal assistant who lied about passing his legal executive exams so that his law firm employer would reimburse the course fees has been banned from working in the solicitors’ profession.
Benjamin Lewis Clark said he was struggling with debt at the time of his misconduct.
He agreed to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) making a so-called section 43 order, which means he cannot work in the profession again without the regulator’s permission.
According to a notice published yesterday, he was a legal assistant for nearly five years in the commercial department of Lincolnshire firm Bridge McFarland, which agreed to support him with his qualifications through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) by reimbursing the course fees if he passed his examinations.
However, in February this year, he failed them, but told the firm he had passed and asked for the fees.
The firm asked for written confirmation and he provided the results letter from CILEx, which he had altered to show that he had passed. The firm paid him £1,275.
However, he was caught when the firm then contacted CILEx to discuss the next stage of Mr Clark’s studies. He was suspended and his employment ended on 31 March
Mr Clark admitted his actions had been dishonest.
In mitigation, the SRA acknowledged that he fully admitted his conduct to the firm and to the regulator, and had expressed regret and remorse.
He said he was in debt at the time of the misconduct and struggling to keep up with the repayments he needed to make under a debt management plan.
Bridge McFarland also confirmed that he was held “in high regard” prior to the incident.
But the SRA concluded that his conduct made it “undesirable” for Mr Clark to be involved in a legal practice.