Former lawyer Angela Heather Bean has admitted two charges of misconduct before the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
Ms Bean accepted a cash payment of $2,500 from a client without the knowledge or authorisation of her law firm. She took $2,000 of the $2,500 for herself and raised an invoice for the remaining $500. The invoice was false and was created to disguise her misappropriation of $2,000.
The Tribunal said Ms Bean immediately regretted her actions but seemed unable to put it right. The matter was discovered by her employer within a few days and she was confronted about it. She acknowledged her wrongdoing, returned the money, resigned and apologised.
Ms Bean self-reported the matter to the New Zealand Law Society and surrendered her practising certificate on 17 July 2015. She has not practised since.
The Tribunal censured her and suspended her until 17 July 2018. It also ordered her to pay costs of $6,008 to the Law Society and to reimburse hearing costs of $5,280.
"The Tribunal recognised that the lawyer involved fully accepted responsibility for her actions and handed in her practising certificate. It was clear that she was also under considerable stress at the time, and she had practised for 15 years with an unblemished disciplinary record," New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.
"The Tribunal has taken these factors into account. It is nevertheless unacceptable for any lawyer to misappropriate money from their clients, whatever the reason."