[Names used in this summary are fictitious]
A lawyers standards committee has resolved not to impose a disciplinary finding against a lawyer who breached her professional obligations when she disclosed information she shouldn’t have.
The lawyer, Noggs, was contacted by Ms Wemmick in relation to her separation from her husband, Mr Hexam. Unbeknown to Ms Wemmick, Noggs had been instructed by Mr Hexam two days earlier. At no time during their conversation did Noggs advise Ms Wemmick of her retainer with Mr Hexam.
Noggs subsequently disclosed to Mr Hexam the details of what Ms Wemmick had sought advice on and also referred to these in a letter she sent to Ms Wemmick, on behalf of Mr Hexam, on the same day Ms Wemmick contacted her.
Ms Wemmick complained that Noggs had breached her professional obligations when she disclosed to Mr Hexam what she had sought advice on from Noggs.
On receipt of Ms Wemmick’s complaint, Noggs:
- took advice from a senior family lawyer and the complaints advisory panel;
- acknowledged her error and provided a written apology to Ms Wemmick (via her current lawyer);
- implemented new procedures to ensure that conflicts are identified earlier; and
- terminated Mr Hexam’s retainer.
The committee agreed that Noggs had breached her professional obligations when she disclosed to Mr Hexam what Ms Wemmick had sought advice on and referred to that information in the letter she sent to Ms Wemmick. However, the committee considered that the steps taken by Noggs on receipt of Ms Wemmick’s complaint were ‘both prompt and satisfactory’.
In light of the steps already taken, the committee decided to take no further action as it was satisfied that in the circumstances further action was not necessary or appropriate.