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Lawyers Complaints Service: Lawyer who misled client fined

22 November 2013

A lawyer, E, was fined $2,000 and censured for failing to provide client care information, not following instructions, and for misleading a client about whether proceedings had been commenced as instructed.

E had acted for the client on various matters for some years, and was instructed by the client to act in a debt collection matter, for a debt that fell due on 31 October 2011. E sent a letter of demand to the debtor, but had not issued proceedings by 29 November, despite communications which, the client said, led the client to believe the proceedings had been issued in early November.

In a brief unscheduled meeting on 29 November, E advised that he would provide the client with the proceedings number at their next scheduled meeting, due shortly. E then filed the proceedings on 1 December 2011.

Based on the prior communications, the client said he believed he had been misled, and when he discovered this, he uplifted the file on 2 December 2011.

E explained his conduct by noting that he considered it necessary to await the expiry of the period in the letter of demand before issuing proceedings. However this process had not been made clear to the client and in the context of the communications available, the standards committee considered that statements E had made about the matter were misleading. E’s statements had allowed the client to reasonably believe proceedings had been issued, when they had not.

The standards committee also considered that even though the client was of several years’ standing with E, because this was a new instruction and previous instructions had been completed, new client care information had also been required.

As a result the standards committee found that the practitioner’s conduct was unsatisfactory, censured him and fined him $2,000. The committee noted that this award, at the lower end of the scale, partly reflected the fact that the client had suffered no loss because of E’s conduct. E was also ordered to pay $1,000 costs.

Last updated on the 17th March 2016