Porirua lawyer Papali’I Toti Lagolago has been censured by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal after finding her guilty of negligence and bringing the profession into disrepute.
According to the New Zealand Law Society, the Lagolago did not properly inform her clients regarding a debt owed to a finance company in a two-day hearing that could have been satisfactorily resolved in the Disputes Tribunal, at a much lower cost to her clients.
The Tribunal found that Lagolago’s clients were not fully informed of the objective merits of the case and did not fully understand the risks of proceeding.
“The relationship between lawyers and their clients is extremely important. Lawyers are required at all times to ensure they act in their client’s best interests,” said New Zealand Law Society president Chris Moore.
“Whether that’s keeping clients fully informed or reducing costs where possible, it’s important for lawyers to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and to do everything in their power to uphold the integrity of the profession.”
The Tribunal ordered her to pay the New Zealand Law Society costs of $12,000 to reimburse hearing costs of $16,514 in addition to the censure. Lagolago was ordered to reduce her legal fees by $14,000 and is subject to a mentoring order for a period of 12 months, where she will be unable to accept instructions relating to civil litigation matters without prior mentor approval.
According to a report by the NZ Law Society, Lagolago is appealing the Tribunal’s findings to the High Court.