An experienced personal injury paralegal who lied to a barrister and legal expenses insurer “on instruction from her supervising solicitor” has been banned from working for law firms.
Nighat Munir, a paralegal for 15 years at SAS Daniels in Cheshire, admitted that her conduct was dishonest but said that “as soon as she realised her mistake”, she reported the matter to the firm’s senior partner.
In a regulatory settlement agreement with Ms Munir, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said that Mr A instructed the firm to pursue a personal injury claim, and in November 2016 his claim settled and he recovered £16,000 in legal costs and compensation.
Ms Munir was “instructed by her supervising solicitor” to send an email to the barrister involved, who was due to be paid only if the claim was successful, stating: “Please note this matter is no longer going ahead, we do not have any instructions from the client.”
The SRA said: “This made it appear to counsel that the case had not been successfully concluded and, consequently, that counsel was not due to be paid.”
Later that month, again “on instruction from her supervising solicitor”, Ms Munir sent an email to Mr A’s legal expenses insurer stating: “The other side is not prepared to put forward any offers of settlement in this case.”
The email said that, having discussed the case with the client and counsel, the case had a “less than 50% prospects of success” and had been discontinued, allowing the client to claim on the policy.
The insurer refused to pay on grounds that the claim had failed due to the client having exaggerated his injuries and demanded payment of the premium. The premium was not paid and the file was closed.
SAS Daniels suspended Ms Munir’s supervising solicitor “for concerns about the handling of several client matters” in August 2017.
The SRA said: “Once he was suspended, Ms Munir told the firm’s senior partner of her concerns about the way Mr A’s claim had been handled.”
The law firm paid counsel’s fees in respect of Mr A’s matter and the legal expenses insurer the premium it was due in September 2017.
The following May, SAS Daniels closed its personal injury department and Ms Munir left the Firm.
Ms Munir admitted dishonesty, and said in mitigation that she was “instructed by a solicitor at the firm to send the emails and felt obliged to follow those instructions”.
The paralegal said she raised concerns with firm’s the senior partner “as soon as she realised her mistake”, resulting in the outstanding sums being paid, and had worked in the legal profession for over 20 years with no previous regulatory offences.
The SRA made her subject to a section 43 order, preventing her from working for law firms without its permission, and she agreed to pay £300 costs.