Second paralegal at firm banned for falsifying time records

SRA: Section 43 orders

A second paralegal working at National Accident Law has been banned from the profession for charging clients for more calls than she actually made.

The law firm, part of listed company NAHL plc, said the two had been working together “closely” but their misconduct was discovered before inflated invoices were sent to clients.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) issued orders under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974, which prohibit a non-solicitor from having any role at a law firm without its permission.

Last month, the regulator banned Chantelle Dallas, a paralegal in the firm’s claim preparation team, after a review of call data highlighted that the number of units she was charging each day appeared high given the volume of telephone calls she made.

This prompted a review of her time recording, using data from three randomly selected weeks between October and December 2020, which found no corresponding phone call on 83 of 323 time entries logged in that period.

Yesterday, it meted out the same punishment to Lauren Gibb for the same misconduct. The three weeks of data showed no phone call on 43 of 281 time entries she logged.

Ms Gibb admitted to the firm that she did this in order to meet targets.

As with Ms Dallas, National Accident Law dismissed her, having already reported its concerns to the SRA. She admitted to the regulator that her conduct was dishonest.

Her mitigation included that she received no financial benefit from her conduct and was experiencing “difficulties with her mental health at the relevant time”.

The SRA said: “Ms Gibb’s conduct in relation to that act or default makes it undesirable for her to be involved in a legal practice because it demonstrates she has behaved dishonestly and has a propensity to mislead others.”

In a statement, National Accident Law said: “In January 2021, as a result of the control measures in place, we identified a number of discrepancies between an employee’s time recording records and our telephony data. The conduct was reported immediately to the SRA.

“A detailed investigation took place and we identified similar behaviour with a second paralegal over the same period. On completion of the internal investigations, we found that time had been recorded for a number of tasks which had not been undertaken.

“We dismissed both employees on the grounds of gross misconduct and updated the SRA. The invalid time recording entries were removed, and no clients were affected in any way.

“The two paralegals worked together closely. Their behaviour was connected and formed part of the same investigation. Both members of staff had received extensive training.

“We review our time recording targets frequently and these are in line with industry standards. We now monitor our telephony data on a weekly basis.”

The firm said it “entirely” endorsed the SRA’s decisions.

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