Solicitor gets 4 months’ holiday for sharing receipts with unqualified conveyancer

In Legal Services Commissioner v DLM [2006] LPT 13, the solicitor was ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution, publicly reprimanded, and had his practising certificate suspended for 4 months. He was guilty of sharing receipts from his law practice with an unqualified conveyancer. He agreed with a former colleague, not legally qualified, that she would find clients, arrange finance for their purchase of homes, and that he would then complete the conveyancing work she had already commenced. She got $1,000, and he got $1,500 though separate bills were rendered. The Tribunal looked at the substance of the whole thing and found that in truth, there was a sharing of receipts contrary to the prohibition on lawyers sharing receipts from legal practice with non-lawyers, which is found in Queensland in the rules of professional conduct. The Chief Justice of Queensland, Paul de Jersey, characterised the arrangement, which, it must be said is somewhat difficult to follow from the reasons like this:

“[11] The substance of the situation was the client’s necessary legal work was carried outby the respondent, as solicitor, and Ms Mullins, as legally unqualified clerk. They agreed on a division of the work, the respondent confining himself to that segment which appealed to him. They effectively worked in tandem under a collaborative umbrella agreement. They agreed as to how the total fee, $2,500, should be divided between them. In the result, the respondent was sanctioning the carrying out of a solicitor’s work by an unqualified person, in circumstances where it suited him not to attend himself to that early work on the purchaser’s behalf. Another way of analysing it, is that in carrying out that early work, Ms Mullins effectively did so on behalf of the qualified respondent, on the understanding she was to be paid the proportion of the overall fee relevant to the work she did.”

Twenty-two transactions of this type were thought to warrant a four month holiday for the solicitor.
Another similar Queensland case was noted: Adamson v Queensland Law Society Inc [1990] 1 Qd R 498.

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