A solicitor who intercepted a conveyancing client’s complaint about her and responded posing as her boss has been struck off the roll.
Elizabeth Nedin, formerly with south Wales firm Donoghues Solicitors, had acknowledged the complaint almost immediately from her firm’s general email address, then sent an email three days later purporting to be from the director and compliance officer. The email promised to review the client file and send an immediate response. Nedin sent another email the following week apologising for the delay in responding and promising that action was being taken.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that her conduct was discovered when the director’s secretary noticed in the deleted folder an email from his address with the subject matter ‘letter of complaint’. Nedin was dismissed in 2019, around four weeks after the complaint was first made.
The tribunal heard that emails to the firm were stored on a central computer which each fee earner had access to, so it was possible for them to send emails in another person’s name. Nedin did not appear at the two-day hearing last month, but she earlier told the SRA that she had panicked when she first saw the complaint and wanted time to read it before her boss did.
She then could not bear to deal with the matter and kept putting it off, with every mention of the client causing her to feel anxious and fearful.
Nedin told the SRA: ‘I would block it out and before I knew it, weeks had passed. I hid the complaint from [her boss] knowing that this was of course the worst thing I could have done as obviously the complaint was not going to go away.’
She accepted she had breached solicitor rules and admitted the allegations. No mitigation was offered.
The tribunal said Nedin, a solicitor since 2013, had been motivated by self-preservation and the reputation of the firm, as opposed to her client’s best interests.
The judgment added: ‘Whilst her initial acknowledgment of the complaint (within 45 minutes of receipt and from the firm’s generic email address) may well have been spontaneous and a panicked reaction, her subsequent misconduct in perpetuating the concealment represented a series of repeated dishonest steps planned over a period of 23 days which served to hide the true position.’
The tribunal noted that Nedin was of previous good character, demonstrated genuine insight, made open and frank admissions and cooperated fully once her misconduct came to light. She was struck off and ordered to pay £11,400 costs.