Auckland practitioner Yipu Shi has been suspended from practice for a period of 15 months beginning 7 June 2017.
Miss Shi admitted two charges of misconduct to the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal. These related to her acting for both parties in two conveyancing transactions.
The Tribunal found that as well as acting where there was a conflict of interest, she falsely certified documents necessary for the property transfer by stating she had witnessed both of the vendors’ signatures. She had not witnessed the complainant’s signature - the complainant was out of the country at the time.
In deciding to suspend Miss Shi rather than to strike her off, the Tribunal said there were mitigating factors. It said her conveyancing experience was relatively limited and there appeared to be deficiencies in the level of supervision she received.
Miss Shi had also admitted her wrongdoing and cooperated. She had suffered significant financial consequences as a result of her inability to practise subsequently. There was no element of personal gain and she had expressed her remorse and apologised to the complainant.
“While we consider that personal mitigating factors may carry less weight in the disciplinary context because of the public protective aspect, we consider that this particular young woman who has now faced up to her responsibilities and has learnt a very hard lesson ought to be given another opportunity to practise,” the Tribunal said.
As well the suspension, costs of $8,743 were awarded to the prosecuting lawyers standards committee, and the New Zealand Law Society was ordered to pay costs of $4,549, with Miss Shi to refund 100% of that to the Law Society.
Miss Shi is also prohibited from practising on her own account until authorised by the Tribunal.