‘Dissatisfied’ law firm principal takes recruitment agency to court

A law firm principal has taken a legal recruitment agency to court over his dissatisfaction with a new employee.

user iconNaomi Neilson 22 August 2023 Big Law
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Rodney Sahay, the principal of Brisbane firm Stephens & Tozer, has disputed a $13,848 fee owed to Scotsco – trading as Focus Legal Recruitment – for the placement of a solicitor whose restraint to trade clause had caused some dissatisfaction in his services.

Despite keeping the solicitor on as an employee, Mr Sahay paid the agency the first instalment but refused to pay the balance.

When Scotsco complained, an adjudicator found the placement had been fulfilled as the solicitor in question remained employed and there had been no attempt to terminate this employment so Mr Sahay could seek a replacement candidate from the agency.

On Friday (18 August), the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal refused Mr Sahay’s application for leave to appeal.

The adjudicator found that while there had been a discussion about a settlement negotiation between the parties, this was never finalised.

On 1 December 2021, Mr Sahay offered to settle the dispute for $3,066 and set a deadline of 3 December.

Three days after the offer lapsed, Scotsco asked how long it would take for the payment to be made if the $3,066 was accepted.

Despite Mr Sahay asserting Scotsco agreed to settle the following day, there was no evidence of an agreement reached on that date.

This was supported by a 10 December email in which Scotsco asked Mr Sahay to forward an “appropriate deed of settlement”. The adjudicator found this was evidence that no agreement had been reached and agreed to prior to this email being sent.

Scotsco had also been cleared of allegations of misleading Mr Sahay or deliberately keeping information from him and the firm.

“In all, the adjudicator found that Mr Sahay received the benefits of the contract with Scotsco, and no compromise of the claim for payment of the full placement fee was agreed between the parties,” acting senior member Ann Fitzpatrick determined.

Referring to the communication exchanged between the parties relating to the possible settlement negotiation, the acting senior member said the adjudicator was right to find that there was no evidence in them that the settlement had been agreed to.

“The adjudicator analysed the exchanges and concluded on the wording that there was no definitive agreement,” she said.

Mr Sahay has since commenced proceedings in the Magistrates Court seeking damages for breach of contract or misrepresentation.