City firms must ensure the wellbeing of partners who are under ‘relentless pressure’ to bring in fees, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has said in a judgment about a solicitor who exaggerated her billing figures.
Tracey Ann Sheehan, former head of telecommunications at Hill Dickinson, was struck off last month for ‘vastly overstating’ her billable hours and billing information on two occasions when moving firm. In judgment, the tribunal found that figures provided when applying for partner positions were ‘self-evidently grossly exaggerated’, while her oral account was ‘bizarre and not credible’ in places.
However, the three-person panel accepted that Sheehan – who had an otherwise unblemished record – had been under considerable pressure and worked very long hours on a regular basis. ‘She described being subject to intense pressure to generate fee income and the tribunal considered that her evidence that she sought to move into a more personally sustainable position was genuine.’
The tribunal added that it was ‘mindful of the evident pressures placed upon partners to meet billing targets', and also made an observation regarding the importance of ensuring wellbeing 'in light of these relentless pressures’.
During her five-day hearing last month, Sheehan told the tribunal she was under pressure to work ‘excessive hours' while having to cope with very trying personal circumstances.
Partner profits in the City have been higher than ever this year, with profit per equity partner at Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance nearing £2m. Meanwhile, partner profits at Macfarlanes have surpassed £2m, according to figures published today.