Solicitor reprimanded for letting conveyancer steal monies from his office account

Legal Services Commissioner v WP [2008] VCAT 983 was a guilty plea. A sole practitioner and ex-cop shared offices with a Turkish conveyancer named Dervish. The solicitor practised as a sole practitioner under the name “Thomasz and Dervish”, even though Mr Dervish’s only connection with the legal practice was that he shared premises with it. The solicitor allowed the conveyancer to become a signatory to his office account (i.e. not his trust account), he said, because utilities bills were made out to both of them. Over a period of one and a half years, Dervish put more than $750,000 of the conveyancing business’s clients’ funds through the solicitor’s office account. Dervish misappropriated about $180,000. The solicitor said though he was aware that the solicitor from whom he had bought the practice, who had also shared premises with Dervish, had had an issue with Dervish in which a substantial sum of money went missing, he never noticed these transactions. He pleaded guilty to misconduct under the Legal Practice Act, 1996 constituted by a reckless failure to comply with this practice rule:

“A practitioner must ensure that each part of the practitioner’s legal practice is, at all times, carried on or effectively supervised by a legal practitioner.”

Vice-President Ross adopted the solicitor’s suggestion as to an appropriate disposition, making the following orders:

‘ 1. [The solicitor’s practising certificate] be varied such that until 31 December 2008 he may only practice [sic.] as an employee of a legal practice.

2. Of the 10 CPD units the [solicitor] is obliged to complete in the current CPD year, pursuant to the Continuing Professional Development Rules 2008, at least 3 CPD units must be in the field of practice management.

3. [The solicitor] be reprimanded.

4. [The solicitor] pay the costs of the Legal Services Commissioner in respect of the proceeding. In the absence of agreement such costs are to be assessed by the principal registrar on the basis of County Court Scale D.’

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One Reply to “Solicitor reprimanded for letting conveyancer steal monies from his office account”

  1. Could a slap be any more gentler?

    The obligation on solicitors to supervise their practices is lessened by such a lenient penalty, which encourages the “I know nothing” defence to a charge of lack of supervision.

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