Tony Bamford, a prominent Nelson defence lawyer, has been fined $5,000, ordered to pay $14,307 in costs and censured after admitting to unsatisfactory conduct in front of the Lawyers and Conveyances Disciplinary Tribunal.
The tribunal expressed “extreme dissatisfaction” with Bamford’s failure to comply with practice rules.
“A censure will remain always a part of your disciplinary record and will hopefully cause you to reflect on your failings and ensure that such failings do not occur again,” tribunal chair, Judge D F Clarkson, wrote in a decision dated 17 November.
This decision states that Bamford had an immaculate disciplinary history until the recent censure after being in practice for 26 years.
From April 2014 to January 2015, he sustained three findings of unsatisfactory conduct by the standards committee.
The first was the most serious and involved “very poor service” to a client. There was a four-year delay in acting on instructions provided with the committee imposing a “significant penalty”.
The second finding “once again was an example of poor communication”.
The third involved an unintentional conflict of interest relating to a GST mistake for a sale and purchase agreement. This led to the client having to reduce the purchase price by quite a large sum.
Although his firm was aware of the error and the possible claim against it on 18 February 2014, it was not until the client made it clear on 5 March 2015 that Bamford advised his client to obtain independent legal advice.
A second charge related to this incident also came about due to Bamford’s slow response to the client’s complaint against his firm.
Mitigating factors in the tribunal’s decision included that Bamford immediately acknowledged his error, expressed his regret, had negotiated a confidential settlement with the client, had brought in significant changes to his practice, had hired additional staff to reduce his workload and had completed a course in ethics.
Bamford agreed to formalise a two-year mentoring arrangement with Nelson solicitor, Paul Le Gros. The meetings will take place at least once every two months and will cost $350 per hour plus GST.
After the tribunal, Bamford said the decision was “quite fair” and had laid out the issues accurately.
“It was just a classic case where I had a fairly significant amount of other work going on,” he said. “[This] is not unusual for me, because I've probably got the biggest criminal trial practice in Nelson, and really not resisting the client's pressure to sort it out, and basically insisting that he go off and get independent advice.”
“It was just a bad call,” he added.