New Zealand Law Society - Lawyers Complaints Service: Censured for breaching standards committee orders

Lawyers Complaints Service: Censured for breaching standards committee orders

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Wayland Helgi Henderson has been censured by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal for breaching orders of the Law Society’s Otago Standards Committee.

In [2015] NZLCDT 19, Mr Henderson admitted two charges of unsatisfactory conduct.

The first charge was that he breached orders made by the Otago Standards Committee. The second charge was that in his practice, he suggested that he had retained a connection with another law practice.

The background to the first charge was that on 17 April 2012, the Otago Standards Committee had found Mr Henderson guilty of unsatisfactory conduct as a result of Mr Henderson being held in contempt by a District Court for various procedural failings. These included failing to appear and failing to respond and explain his absence to the Court when required to by the Judge.

As a result the standards committee had ordered Mr Henderson be censured, that he make his practice available to a senior former practitioner for inspection and that he take advice in relation to the management of his practice by the senior former practitioner.

After these orders were made, the senior former practitioner attempted to inspect Mr Henderson’s practice and provide advice. However, Mr Henderson failed to effectively communicate and co-operate with him, which resulted in the charge of breaching orders.

The second charge was that Mr Henderson induced people to suppose that he retained a connection with another law firm in breach of Rule 14.9 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008, in that:

  • he practised from the same premises;
  • that the only name on the door was that of the other firm;
  • that Mr Henderson had the same PO Box number as the other firm;
  • that Mr Henderson shared a facsimile with the other firm and sent facsimiles carrying the name of the other firm as the sender; and
  • that Mr Henderson’s facsimile and telephone number was that of the other firm.

The Tribunal noted that the parties had reached a proposed resolution of the charges. This resolution included Mr Henderson admitting the two charges of unsatisfactory conduct, that he be censured and that he engage in further supervision and mentoring.

The Tribunal then ordered that:

  • Mr Henderson be censured on the two charges; and
  • Mr Henderson will continue to engage in supervision and mentoring with a Dunedin solicitor on a quarterly basis for a further 12 months. Mr Henderson agrees that the supervising lawyer can continue to update the Otago Standards Committee as to his progress. In the event that the supervising lawyer becomes unavailable, Mr Henderson will agree to a similar arrangement with a practitioner nominated by the Otago Standards Committee.

The Tribunal did not make an order requiring Mr Henderson to refund the Tribunal costs to the Law Society.

The Tribunal “has taken into account that the practitioner’s conduct was due to illness; his income was minimal and he had a young family,” the Tribunal’s decision says.

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