In Legal Services Commissioner v MG  VCAT 1491, the lawyer failed to respond to letters demanding a written response to a complaint by another lawyer. The Commissioner wrote on 18 January 2007, 16 February 2007, 23 March 2007 and 1 April 2007. In other words, a complaint, quite possibly lodged last year, has languished uninvestigated for 8 months. The lawyer proffered no explanation for his breaches of the Act, so that Member Butcher decided, quite appropriately, that this persistent silence by the lawyer amounted to professional misconduct rather than unsatisfactory professional conduct. Though the dichotomy between wilful and innocent breaches of the Act which used to distinguish unsatisfactory conduct from misconduct under the old Act has been dispensed with, Mr Butcher still found those concepts of assistance in deciding whether this was the lesser or the more serious of the two conduct offences.
The fine was $1,500 and the costs $2,500. In the period to the end of the financial year before the one just gone, the going tariff seemed to be $500 and $1,000 in costs, as I noted in an earlier post.
MG gets the prize for first misconduct ‘conviction’ under the Legal Profession Act, 2004 (so far as I know), but not the first ‘conviction’; another solicitor was convicted of unsatisfactory conduct on a similar charge a week or two ago.
- Previous infractions of same rule not relevant to distinction between professional misconduct and unsatisfactory professional conduct
- Distinguishing between civil and disciplinary complaints
- Law Society’s conduct in Goldberg v Ng
- States’ and territories’ disciplinary systems summarised by the government
- Workcover case trust transfer costs solicitor $10,000