In a recent development, a partner has been suspended from practice for 28 days after signing statements of truth in road traffic claims using a colleague’s electronic signature without the colleague’s consent. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal rendered its judgment on this case, shedding light on the actions of Paul Fraser Langley. 

Commenting on the case, Lawtech Software Group CEO Rudi Kesic stated, “Maintaining trust and integrity is paramount in the legal profession. This incident, while unfortunate, underscores the significance of ethical conduct. It is essential for legal professionals to uphold the highest standards to preserve the credibility of the legal system.” 

The Electronic Signature Incident 

Langley, who was based in Plexus Law’s London office at the time of the incident, reportedly self-reported his actions to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The tribunal revealed that Langley, responsible for a colleague’s case holding during an unplanned sick leave, signed six statements of truth by copying and pasting the colleague’s electronic signature. 

Colleague’s Uncomfortable Discovery 

Upon returning to work, the colleague, identified as Person A, discovered the unauthorised use of his electronic signature. Person A, an assistant solicitor at the firm and one of Langley’s responsibilities, expressed discomfort through an email to Langley, stating his unease with his signature being used on documents he hadn’t drafted. 

Apology and Remedial Actions 

In response, Langley apologised for his actions and took swift corrective measures. He applied to the court to file and serve amended defences for the six matters where he had signed statements of truth with Person A’s signature. The court granted all six applications. 

In his report to the SRA, Langley acknowledged his mistake, stating, “I should have signed the defences myself as [I] had satisfied myself that the facts stated in it were true. I am extremely sorry for my error. In my haste to deal with the many very urgent tasks and my own work, I did not take appropriate care.” 

Tribunal’s Findings 

The tribunal, however, noted that Langley’s culpability was high, emphasising his sole responsibility for the misconduct due to direct control of the circumstances. Being an experienced solicitor and a partner with supervisory and management responsibilities further contributed to the severity of the judgment. 

The tribunal recognised Langley’s self-reporting and immediate steps to rectify the situation. Despite the reported matter, the court granted permission for the defences to be amended and did not report any of the issues to the SRA. 

Outcome, Costs and Role of Electronic Signatures  

As part of the agreed outcome, Langley has been suspended from practice for 28 days and ordered to pay £3,500 in costs. This case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining ethical standards in the legal profession particularly with legal industry beginning to really embrace technological innovations which are helping to enhance processes. 

Electronic signatures are becoming the norm within the legal sector with several legal professionals and law firms utilising innovations in technology to secure signatures digitally as opposed to paper signed documents. At Verify 365, we are transforming and innovating the legal sector every day with many law firms utilising our technology including our eSign 365 tool to confirm the identity of their clients, create faster workflows and eliminate the need for paper signatures and documents.  

Through eSign 365, lawyers, solicitors and conveyancers can seamlessly send and request signatures. They can receive responses from their clients within minutes and our e-signatures are legally binding and have the same legal standing pen-and-paper signatures known as Qualified Electronic Signature (QES).  

In addition to sending client care and engagement letters, our innovative platform allows you to complete identity checks within minutes using our award winning, government graded, Dynamic ID technology. Complete fast checks and practice compliantly within the regulatory guidelines. Verify 365 is making an impact across a variety of law firm specialities but the platform ensures legal professionals are practicing compliantly, streamlining their services and improving the overall client experience.  

Verify 365 and Lawtech Software Group CEO Rudi Kesic commented “Our innovative onboarding platform is allowing law firms to enhance their onboarding processes and innovative tools like eSign 365 are helping firms combat the challenges of AML and compliance. Verify 365 is crafted by lawyers for lawyers so the regulatory frameworks are at the forefront of our technology and ensuring firms are practicing compliantly”.