The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has censured Nelson barrister and solicitor Anthony John Dean Bamford after finding him guilty of two charges of unsatisfactory conduct.
As well as the censure, the Tribunal fined Mr Bamford $5000, ordered him to pay the Law Society costs and to take advice in relation to the management of his practice.
The first charge arose from a mistake made in a property transaction. An incorrect representation was made that the vendor was not registered for GST when in fact they were.
Mr Bamford breached the conflict of interest rules. He failed to become aware of a possible claim against his firm, which requires that he immediately refer his client to obtain independent advice.
Instead Mr Bamford tried to resolve the dispute and only suggested his client seek independent legal advice once his client said they would be looking to the firm for compensation.
The second charge resulted after Mr Bamford was slow to react to his client's complaint against his firm. Mr Bamford failed to deal with the matter in a prompt and fair way.
"The relationship between lawyers and their clients is extremely important. Where that is severed or breaks down, it is vital that the lawyer continues to act with total professionalism," New Zealand Law Society President Chris Moore says.
"This decision underlines the importance of maintaining proper standards of quality, accuracy and professionalism in a lawyer's dealings. Lawyers must ensure they uphold and protect the rules set out in the Rules of Conduct and Client Care.
"Lawyers can, and often do, come under enormous pressure but the obligation, when a conflict arises is to advise the client accordingly and allow an independent party to resolve the issue."