A former DLA Piper associate has been struck off a roll of solicitors by the U.K.’s Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and asked to pay $7,933 in costs after admitting to fabricating her qualifications.
Tania Bains joined the global legal giant in September 2015 as an associate in the finance and projects team, after completing a two-year training contract with Weightmans, a regional U.K. firm based in Liverpool. She had previously taken a summer placement at Weightmans.
Weightmans found a number of inconsistencies in Bains’ resume after she left for DLA Piper, prompting an internal investigation that resulted in the firm reporting its concerns to the U.K.’s Solicitors Regulation Authority. DLA Piper then suspended Bains and also reported her to the SRA, with Bains resigning from the firm before DLA Piper’s internal disciplinary proceedings concluded.
During the course of SDT hearings held in January and May of this year, Weightmans corporate partner Gary Jones gave evidence alleging that Bains’ curriculum vitae was “largely a ‘cut and paste of other people’s experience.’” He added that Bains’ claimed banking experience was “wholly inaccurate.”
Bains was found to have falsified both subjects studied during her degree at the University of Wales and the grades she achieved during both her application for the Weightmans’ training contract and her position at DLA Piper. Examples of subjects that Bains falsely claimed to have studied include competition and company law.
In her defense, Bains claimed that she had submitted her application for a Weightmans’ training contract in the “mid-afternoon” on the final day applications were being accepted. She said that “there was nobody at home to check her records for her,” meaning that Bains guessed her results for individual university modules. She maintained that she had “never knowingly […] acted dishonestly.”
In relation to her application to DLA Piper, Bains admitted that there was a level of “stretching on a CV to make it sound bumped up or impressive,” adding that her resume ”read better than the competition” because she had used a partner’s CV as a template. Bains, however, admitted that there were aspects of her resume included “at a stretch.”
The SDT, in its June 20 ruling, found that Bains’ conduct has been “deliberate, calculated and repeated,” adding that she had concealed her behavior from both Weightmans and DLA Piper, breaching her obligation to “protect the public and the reputation of the legal profession.”
The tribunal also noted that despite Bains’ inexperience, she had been working at Weightmans for two years when she submitted her application to DLA Piper, meaning that she had an “understanding of the legal environment.”
The SDT decided that a suspension for Bains would not be appropriate since the regulator was not confident that such misconduct would not be repeated.
“Ms. Bains left our firm in February 2016, a few months after she joined, following an internal investigation into this matter,” DLA Piper said in a statement. “Whilst regrettable for the individual concerned, we fully respect the decision of the SDT.”
A Weightmans representative noted that Bains worked at the firm between 2013 and 2015.
“In line with our values of diligence and integrity, and in compliance with our regulatory obligations, we disclosed concerns regarding Ms. Bains to the SRA,” the firm said. “The hearing and outcome remain a matter for the SRA to comment further.”