Former lawyer breached own undertaking to never practise again - Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner

Former lawyer breached own undertaking to never practise again

December 14, 2017

A former Eastern Suburbs solicitor has been found guilty of unqualified legal practise, six years after giving an undertaking to never seek a practising certificate again.

On 21 November 2017, Mr John Leo Lawrence appeared before the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court where the Victorian Legal Services Board told the Court Mr Lawrence was not licensed to practise law.

Mr Lawrence had not held a practising certificate since 2011 after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found him guilty of six charges of professional misconduct. At the time Mr Lawrence was fined $5,000 and ordered to pay over $11,000 in legal costs. Mr Lawrence then gave an undertaking that he would not apply to renew his practising certificate in the future.

The Board told the Court that in 2016 Mr Lawrence had engaged in unqualified legal practice by assisting the adult children of a former client to obtain Letters of Administration for their father’s estate. The Board also told the Court that Mr Lawrence had represented an entitlement to engage in legal practice by using stationery branded with ‘The Probate and Estate Company’ with the footer ‘assisting clients in the administration of deceased estates’, and listing his academic qualifications in his signature block. Significantly, Mr Lawrence had also certified a death certificate in his capacity as ‘… An Australian Lawyer’, which, while accurate, could convey the impression that he was entitled to engage in legal practice in the context in which it was used.

Mr Lawrence pleaded guilty to one charge of engaging in unqualified legal practice for drafting legal documents and letters, and seeking instructions to proceed and review such documents, and one count of representing an entitlement to engage in legal practice when not qualified to do so.

Mr Lawrence was ordered to pay $7,500 into the Court Fund and to provide the Court an Undertaking of good behaviour for one year.