New Zealand Law Society - Not carrying out instructions

Not carrying out instructions

Published on 10 September 2020

A lawyer who accepted instructions from a client and failed to carry them out has been censured and fined $5,000 by a lawyers standards committee.

B was the client’s counsel for an intended application for a change in bail conditions, the entry of guilty pleas on criminal charges, an application for bail after conviction and an intended bail appeal.

Noting that B had not denied the essential facts of the complaint, the committee found that he had:

  • accepted instruction to apply for a change in bail conditions and had failed to do so;
  • advised that an appeal had been lodged when it had not been;
  • failed to respond to messages to contact the client and the client’s family’s lawyer; and
  • failed to respond to requests for uplifting the client’s file by new counsel and to act on that request with undue delay.

The committee noted that there was no information from which it could conclude that either the application for a change to bail conditions, or the bail appeal would have succeeded, or that it would have resulted in any difference to the sentence that the client ultimately received.

B informed the committee that he regretted that he had allowed personal circumstances to lead to him not acting as he should.

The standards committee said it determined that these failures “constitute conduct that falls short of the standard of competence and diligence that a member of the public is entitled to expect of a reasonably competent lawyer and accordingly constitute unsatisfactory conduct”.

B was also ordered to pay the client $500 compensation and to pay $1000 costs.