Solicitor banned after ‘flagrant disregard’ of obligations to client
February 23, 2017
A solicitor has been banned from legal practice for two years after his law practice repeatedly failed to obtain instructions from its clients before issuing legal proceedings on their behalf.
Mr Nicholas Logan pleaded guilty to seven charges of professional misconduct after one of his legal firms, Express Legal, commenced acting without the client’s instructions, two weeks after promising the legal regulator he would never do so again.
Express Legal, which carries out legal work related to motor vehicle accident repairs, obtained some clients through an association with motor vehicle repairers, who encouraged owners of damaged motor vehicles to sign a repair authorisation document. Unknown to the vehicle owner, the document also included an authorisation for Express Legal to take legal action on behalf of the vehicle owner to recover any losses incurred as a result of the accident.
In a previous disciplinary proceeding, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that a vehicle owner did not receive any information or legal advice from Mr Logan or Express Legal before signing the authorisation forms, so were therefore unaware that they had appointed legal representatives.
In December 2012, Mr Logan gave an undertaking to the Commissioner that he would communicate directly with his clients, confirm all instructions in writing and keep records of those instructions on file. Subsequent complaints to the Commissioner alleged that, among other offences, Mr Logan’s firm had issued proceedings without receiving the client’s authority to do so. One of these proceedings was issued two weeks after Mr Logan gave the undertaking.
Mr Logan pleaded guilty to four charges of professional misconduct for acting without authority and failing to advise his clients, one charge for making false and misleading statements and two charges of willful failure to comply with an Undertaking.
In its decision, VCAT found:
“The proven misconduct is extremely serious. The Respondent has behaved dishonestly in the conduct of his legal practice and in a manner which caused prolonged confusion, inconvenience and cost to the two affected members of the public. The misconduct in this case is seriously aggravated by the fact that he had been previously dealt with the by the regulator for similar offending. In failing to act upon the opportunity extended to him in the form of the Undertaking and the leniency of the prior reprimands, the Respondent has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the most basic obligations placed upon a solicitor towards his clients. He has also demonstrated a contempt for the regulator in willfully breaching his Undertaking and doing so shortly after such Undertaking was given”.
VCAT ordered Mr Logan be suspended from legal practice for two years and that he be ineligible to receive a principal practising certificate until he had worked as an employee solicitor under supervision for a minimum of 18 months. Mr Logan was also ordered to pay the Commissioner’s costs.
For further information, download the VCAT decision.