A senior solicitor has been rebuked after inadvertently sending herself confidential client details ahead of starting her notice period from her employer.
Parminder Kaur Dhillon, a director and head of department at Hounslow firm Lovell Chohan Solicitors Limited, was alleged to have downloaded precedents and templates from the firm’s servers and sent them to her personal Hotmail address. This happened a few days before Dhillon gave three months’ notice of her resignation.
The precedents and templates were said to have contained confidential data, including names and addresses.
According to a regulatory settlement agreement made with the SRA, Dhillon admitted she accessed a number of files containing confidential, client identifiable data and transmitted them outside the firm, without the prior consent of the clients concerned.
Dhillon maintained that she uploaded material from the personal drive on her desktop and then emailed it to herself – she did not realised at the time these files contained any confidential data and thought they were personal documents.
She submitted that she had set up her department and created precedents and templates that she used in her day-to-day practice over several years. These were stored in a personal user folder on her office desktop computer. After she decided to leave the firm and shortly before handing in her notice, she tried to send copies of these documents to her personal account. She intended to be able to continue to use the documents she had developed in her future practice and to allow future clients to benefit from these templates and precedents, which included checklists and general research that she had developed over her years of practice.
Dhillon said she committed an ‘innocent mistake’ and there was no intention to access or actively remove client data from the firm.
She made an immediate offer to remove the material from her Hotmail account and apologised to the SRA, the profession, and the small number of clients concerned.
Dhillon also admitted that during the course of settlement negotiations with the firm, she sought the inclusion of inappropriate text in a draft settlement agreement which prevented any report or communication with a regulatory body. This included a clause stopping contact with the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The firm refused to include the text in the final draft of the settlement agreement. Dhillon said in mitigation that she was not an expert in employment law and could not afford a lawyer to advise her.
The SRA concluded a full prosecution was neither necessary nor proportionate, and noted that Dhillon had cooperated fully with the investigation. She agreed to pay £6,600 costs.