A lawyer (Lawyer B) who neglected to respond to another lawyer’s repeated requests for an update on the sale of shares belonging to an estate was found to have engaged in unsatisfactory conduct.
The Standards Committee concluded that Lawyer B’s conduct had fallen short of the obligation to maintain proper standards of professionalism and was a breach of rules 10 and 10.1.
The Committee ordered Lawyer B to pay a fine of $3,000 and $1,000 costs to the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kahui Ture o Aotearoa. Lawyer B was also directed to take advice on the management of his practice.
Lawyer B was acting for an estate. Another practitioner, Lawyer C, acted for the residual beneficiary. Over a period of more than six months, Lawyer C sent Lawyer B requests for an update on the sale of some shares. No substantive response was provided by Lawyer B.
The Committee reviewed the correspondence and concluded that Lawyer B repeatedly failed to respond to Lawyer C’s requests about the sale of the shares over a period of several months.
The Committee noted that the estate matters needed to be wound up. The unsuccessful attempts to ascertain progress from Lawyer B was likely to have caused considerable frustration to both Lawyer C and his client.
The Committee concluded that Lawyer B’s failure to respond had fallen short of the obligation to maintain proper standards of professionalism and amounted to a failure to treat Lawyer C with respect and courtesy which was a breach of rules 10 and 10.1. The Committee determined that there had been unsatisfactory conduct on the part of Lawyer B.
The Committee ordered Lawyer B to pay a fine of $3,000 and $1,000 costs to the New Zealand Law Society | Te Kahui Ture o Aotearoa. The Committee also took account of Lawyer B’s disciplinary history, which they considered pointed to further issues relating to Lawyer B’s practice.
The Standards Committee considered that further steps were necessary to provide assurance that Lawyer B’s files were being properly managed. Lawyer B was ordered to make his practice available for inspection by a member of the inspectorate, appointed by the Lawyers Complaints Service, every six months for up to 24 months.
The Standards Committee also ordered Lawyer B to take advice in relation to the management of his practice from a senior practitioner every three months for up to 24 months (unless the senior practitioner considered it no longer necessary) and for the senior practitioner to provide a quarterly report to the Standards Committee.