Lawyer who abandoned client before criminal trial banned for 18 months
April 19, 2017
A criminal lawyer who left his client on the eve of his trial without representation, has been banned from practising for 18 months.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal made the order against the Eltham solicitor* after hearing a series of allegations brought against him by several of his former clients.
The Victorian Legal Services Commissioner told VCAT that the solicitor had failed to communicate with two of his clients, had missed deadlines for filing material, and had committed a series of offences related to inadequate costs disclosure, billing and trust money handling.
The solicitor had also demanded and accepted payment of $660 from a third client, after he had secured Legal Aid funding for that client’s case.
VCAT heard that the solicitor had abandoned one client late in the evening on the day before the client’s court appearance, leaving the client without legal representation for the following day in court.
The Commissioner initially attempted to bring the charges against the solicitor in June 2013, however the solicitor disappeared and would not respond to any of the Commissioner’s attempts to contact him. In July 2016, the solicitor was eventually located and served with a summons to appear at VCAT.
The solicitor did not attend the October 2016 hearing, where VCAT found him guilty of three charges of professional misconduct.
The solicitor, who does not currently hold a practising certificate, was banned from engaging in legal practice for 18 months. VCAT ordered that after this time, he could only work as an employee solicitor for a period of three years before he would be permitted to apply for a principal practising certificate. The solicitor was ordered to complete five units of professional development covering practice management and trust accounting before applying for a new practising certificate, and to pay the Commissioner’s costs of $26,824.
*Please note: This blog post has been anonymised to protect the reputation of two other solicitors who share the same name as the solicitor prosecuted in this matter. The identity of the solicitor is disclosed in the VCAT decision (linked above).