New Zealand Law Society - Lawyers Compaints Service: Order not to employ

Lawyers Compaints Service: Order not to employ

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Sharyn McFarlane is not to be employed by a lawyer or incorporated law firm indefinitely until further order of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal, the Tribunal has ordered.

Ms McFarlane is serving a prison sentence of three years, four months and two weeks, imposed on her in the Palmerston North District Court on 12 August 2014. The charges related to the theft of funds from 211 clients of her employing law firm totalling at least $469,000.

She had been employed by the law firm for 40 years and her actions took place from 1998 until 2013. 

In [2015] NZLCDT 17, the Tribunal said that Ms McFarlane herself had notified the Tribunal that she did not wish to appear and defend the charge of misconduct made against her and did not dispute any of the matters alleged in support of the charge.

A meeting between Ms McFarlane and a barrister at the prison confirmed that position and Ms McFarlane assured the Tribunal that she had no intention ever of seeking employment in a lawyer’s, or similar, office.

“The brief summary of the offending discloses that it is so serious that, if she were a practitioner, she would likely have her name struck off the roll,” the Tribunal said. It concluded that Ms McFarlane was “clearly guilty of misconduct”.

Ms McFarlane was ordered to pay $1,825 Law Society costs and $676 Tribunal costs.

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