Auckland lawyer Rico Scott Horsley has been censured by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
The Tribunal found Mr Horsley guilty of negligence in his professional capacity. It found that his actions were at the lower end of the scale of negligence and noted that it was his first disciplinary finding in 14 years of practice.
The Tribunal said the case involved a conflict on Mr Horsley's part in acting for two clients in a transaction where there was a more than negligible risk that he might be unable to discharge the obligations owed to them both. In so doing he negligently misinterpreted Rule 6.1 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008.
"We ... record by way of guidance for other lawyers, that where a client is elderly, good practice demands independent verification of capacity and the taking of particular care in ascertaining complete understanding and consent to a transaction being undertaken on that person's behalf," it said.
The Tribunal said there were a number of matters which mitigated the seriousness of the offending, particularly the omissions in provision of information to Mr Horsley by the younger of his two clients.
"We accept that this was a normally careful practitioner who simply failed to recognise what he was dealing with in this case," it said.
As well as censuring Mr Horsley, the Tribunal fined him $4,000 and required payment of costs of $35,000.