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Failed to honour agreement

04 May 2018

Boon Gunn Hong has been censured and fined $7,500 for unsatisfactory conduct by a lawyers standards committee.

Mr Hong was acting for a client who had separated from his wife.

A dispute arose about the meaning of a Family Court decision and the effect that would have on distribution of the residue of the proceeds of the sale of two residential properties owned by the client and his former wife.

The client complained to the Law Society that Mr Hong failed to account to the client for trust monies held on the client’s behalf, and failed to file within six months of being instructed an application to the Family Court seeking clarification as to whom the disputed funds belonged.

In his response to the standards committee, Mr Hong said that his client did not want to incur any further legal costs on the dispute about the balance of funds.

Mr Hong also said that the client had continuously harassed him to complete the matter, despite the fact that he had advised the client to go to another lawyer as he was “bogged down with other work”.

When the client and his parents continued “pestering” him, he wrote to the client saying that he would file the application within six months but told the client not to come to his office again or he would stop acting for him.

When the client continued to threaten to come to the office, Mr Hong issued him with a trespass notice.

The standards committee noted that it was not uncommon for disagreements to arise between lawyers regarding the proper interpretation of a judgment.

What was concerning, however, was that Mr Hong had taken “no meaningful steps” to progress matters.

“The standards committee could find no plausible explanation for Mr Hong’s inaction,” it said.

“It was no excuse for Mr Hong to claim that he was unable to attend to the matter at the time because he was ‘bogged down with other work’.

“The matter was clearly urgent and Mr Hong was obliged to see matters through to completion.

“The matter had been ongoing for a number of years and [the client’s] increasing frustration is understandable. Indeed [the client] patiently waited …. and finally … elicited a confirmation from Mr Hong that he would file the application within six months.

“Mr Hong failed to honour that agreement.”

As well as the censure and fine, the committee ordered Mr Hong to compensate the client for reasonable legal costs he incurred in instructing counsel to apply to the Family Court for elucidation of the division of funds. The committee also ordered Mr Hong to pay $1,000 costs.

On review, the Legal Complaints Review Officer confirmed the censure, the $7,500 fine and the compensation order. The LCRO also ordered Mr Hong to pay $1,200 costs.

In directing publication of Mr Hong’s name, the committee said it was of the view that “Mr Hong had severely failed his client in a manner which ought to be made known to the public and the profession”.

Last updated on the 4th May 2018