Wellington solicitor Dianne Lester has admitted six charges before the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
The charges comprised one of misconduct, four of unsatisfactory conduct and one of negligence reflecting on fitness to practise or bringing the profession into disrepute.
Ms Lester's offending occurred while she was acting for a debt collecting agency in what were large scale and extremely high turnover debt collecting matters mainly undertaken in the District Courts. It included failures to pursue claims in a timely fashion which resulted in the claims coming to an end by operation of law, failures to advise her client that the claims were at an end, and failures to answer requests for information.
The Tribunal accepted that her conduct was not deliberately dishonest and did not display widespread incompetence or negligence which required a need to protect the public. It censured her, imposed a fine of $7,500 and ordered her to pay to the New Zealand Law Society legal costs of $26,006 and to reimburse hearing costs of $4,632.
"While this offending cannot be condoned because protection of lawyers' clients is paramount, it is clear that Ms Lester has accepted full responsibility for her conduct and had had a long and umblemished career until these matters arose," New Zealand Law Society President Chris Moore says.