The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has found a lawyer guilty of negligence or incompetence of such a degree as to reflect on his fitness to practise or as to bring the profession into disrepute. The lawyer has been granted permanent name suppression.
The lawyer, Mr M, had been friends with the complainant for over 40 years and she appointed him as her attorney under an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) after consulting her own lawyer. Mr M did not understand that in acting as attorney, as well as being Chair of the local branch of a charity to which the complainant would make donations, he was placing himself into a position of divided loyalties.
The Tribunal found Mr M had breached a number of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008. These included breaching the conflict of interest rules, being a barrister and acting as an attorney under an EPA, not having an instructing solicitor, and holding cash funds for a client. In addition he did not provide enough details about a $20,000 payment in two sums from the complainant’s bank account to the charity he chaired.
The Tribunal censured him and ordered him to pay the New Zealand Law Society costs of $15,000 and to reimburse hearing costs of $7,027. He was ordered to refund the fee of $3,648.94 that he rendered to the complainant.