Diane Low censured and fined
Orewa lawyer Diane Faye Low has been censured and fined $8,000 by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
She has also been ordered to pay total costs of $12,856, to engage and pay for a consultant lawyer for two years to undertake a monthly review of her trust account and countersign the monthly certificates as to accuracy, and to undertake a Trust Account Supervisor Refresher Course.
Mrs Low admitted a charge of misconduct which related to issues with her practice's trust account. These included failure to reconcile the trust account with the trust ledger, failure to complete monthly reconciliations, failure to keep proper records, overdrawn trust account ledgers for 74 clients, and failure to report to clients on 64 dormant balances.
She wrongly certified to the New Zealand Law Society that she had correctly reconciled the trust ledger with corresponding trust bank accounts and also wrongly certified monthly that the trust account records were a complete and accurate record of the transactions taking place. This had spanned a number of years.
Mrs Low also advised clients that she had professional indemnity insurance without specifying that it did not meet minimum standards set by the New Zealand Law Society.
The Tribunal said it was accepted there was no dishonesty in any of Mrs Low's conduct apart from the filing of false certificates with the Law Society.
It said she was fortunate to have avoided a period of suspension. It accepted there were strong mitigating factors that counterbalanced the aggravating factors of the length of time the offending occurred and the falsity of the certificates presented to the Law Society. These included timely resolution and co-operation, the purchase of a new digital system, engagement of a consultant lawyer to oversee accounts, and engagement with a cognitive behaviour therapist to address avoidant behaviour.
"The trust account is in place to protect the funds of the public. It is vital therefore that the public have confidence in its integrity and that practitioners adhere to the rules and regulations governing," the Tribunal said.
Last updated on the 27th March 2018