Solicitor apprentice showed “utter disrespect” to tribunal

Mishcon: Caused unnecessary costs

A judge has dismissed a claim from a solicitor apprentice who showed “utter disrespect, bordering on contempt” to an employment tribunal and her former employer, London law firm Mishcon de Reya.

Employment Judge Klimov said Forzana Khanom had shown “persistent, long-lasting and egregious disregard” of the tribunal’s orders and given “feeble and frankly scarcely credible explanations”.

The employment tribunal heard that Ms Khanom presented her claim, the nature of which was not specified, against Mishcon de Reya in November 2022.

Following a case management hearing in August 2023, she failed to provide medical evidence of an alleged disability or disclose documents by the deadlines set out in the orders made at the hearing, despite being “repeatedly chased” by Mishcon.

The firm applied for an unless order in November 2023 and further orders were made by Judge Woodhead in December, with which Ms Khanom also failed to comply.

Mishcon applied to have the claim struck out and Judge Woodhead made a second set of orders in January 2024.

Ms Khanom gave her reasons for the non-compliance later that month. She “partly blamed her former solicitors (who had come off record on 6 December 2023), partly her ill health (side effects of medication), and partly technical problems with her laptop”.

Judge Klimov said he found these reasons “wholly unpersuasive and insufficient to excuse the claimant’s repeated and continued failure to abide by the tribunal orders”.

Ms Khanom told the tribunal she was “willing to comply”, was in the process of seeking legal representation, and “wish[ed] to proceed with the hearing”.

Regional Employment Judge Freer decided, at the end of February 2024, to vacate the final hearing and convert the first day into a case management hearing by video.

Ms Khanom emailed at 9.35am on the day to say she would not be attending because she was about to board a plane to go on a family holiday for her birthday.

Judge Klimov said this was “completely unsatisfactory”. If the preliminary hearing had been in public, he would not have hesitated to strike out the claim, since it was a “prime example of when the tribunal not only can but should exercise its strike out powers”.

He said Ms Khanom’s “persistent, long-lasting and egregious disregard of the tribunal’s orders and her failure to engage with the process [showed] a complete and utter disrespect to the respondent and the tribunal, bordering on contempt”.

She had caused Mischcon he Reya to incur “substantial and unnecessary costs” and took “a wholly disproportionate time” from the tribunal’s limited resources, “with at least six employment judges having to deal with her case at various stages”.

Judge Klimov said: “The claimant is an apprentice-solicitor. It appears she aspires to join this profession. Therefore, she would (or at any rate – should) be aware of the importance to follow due legal process, and how she should conduct herself towards her opponent and the tribunal.

“Her conduct of this case demonstrates the opposite of what could be expected of someone in her position.”

The judge said it would be “disproportionate and contrary to the overriding objective to list a further hearing, or to issue new case management orders”, which he had “no confidence” the claimant would comply with.

Instead, he dismissed Ms Khanom’s claim for non-attendance at the hearing.

Counsel for Mishcon de Reya said the firm would be seeking a costs order.

    Readers Comments

  • Paul Pemberton says:

    While employment law is what first got me into the study and practice of law (I had a different previous career and, while I was not exactly a ‘barrack-rom’ lawyer, the firm I worked for was run by a bunch of egregious (wealthy) directors and thre were some right travertine in employment.) So, I left and got a degree and training contract including a seat in employment. I was quit good, I think. Some of the cases were not. I don’doubt the decision to strike out the claimant, but she also has a (inferred) point about tribunal directions being somewhat convoluted. I never had a problem (a couple of close shaves with deadlines) and several weak cases I inherited) but advising, the Tribunal (on the day of the hearing) one could not comply to attend a video hearing because one is going on holiday? Oh dear. In some 16 years of being a lawyer, have missed a few seminars because of work but I only recall missing one hearing. At 10.00 a.m. But that was due to the suburban trainline being closed for about two or three hours due to somebody throwing themselves onto the track and in front of the train further down the line. Iwas going in to be early but a colleague had to step in sat short notice. I did later ‘dabble’ in employment for a few years but it was generally disappointing because worthwhile cases revolved around discrimination, in all its form, so to make a decent case form, say a good unfair dismissal matter, involved shoe-horning in a protected characteritic. However, for various reasons, in my employment days, it was a continual beggar to keep a client on board for the duration, not least because it often took a very long time to be listed for hearing. I have been involved in one compromise agreement for myself with a former employer. I told my employment solicitor “I had dabbled in employment law so I know what you are talking about, but it changes so fast, I know that is dangerous.”. He replied “It’s dangerous, even if you do it full-time.”

  • Gary says:

    I hope this individual is prevented from being admitted to the roles – showing this much disrespect to the court surely is in breach of the code of conduct and other people have been refused admission for lesser things.

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