Three lawyers found guilty of misconduct charges

by NZ Lawyer15 Aug 2014
Three lawyers have been found guilty of misconduct by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal in separate hearings.

Hamilton barrister and solicitor Clews has been suspended from legal practice for four months beginning on 1 October 2014.

Clews was found guilty of two charges of misconduct: One for breaching solicitor/client privilege, and one for a reckless breach of the conflict of interest rules.

He was also censured, ordered to pay costs and to undergo such practical training and education as required by the New Zealand Law Society.

In a separate case, Wellington lawyer Christopher Jones admitted a charge of misconduct for breaching the trust account regulations.

The breaches included using his trust account for his own private transactions, allowing his own interest in the trust account to become overdrawn on three brief occasions, and failing to keep necessary records disclosing the position of money held on trust.

He was censured, fined $7,500, ordered to pay costs, and to continue to engage an expert who has been assisting him with maintenance of his trust account over the past year. Jones is also required to complete further training in trust account management.

And finally, Auckland lawyer Stephen Potter admitted a charge of misconduct after failing to comply with requests from a New Zealand Law Society Inspector and failing to comply with a lawyer’s standards committee order that he provide specified trust account records.

Potter was suspended from legal practice for three months, prohibited from practising on his own account until authorised, and ordered to pay costs.

The New Zealand Law Society’s national prosecutions manager Mark Treleaven says a very high standard of professional conduct is required of lawyers.

“The public can be assured that any breaches of the Rules of Conduct and Client Care will be investigated and action will be taken if appropriate,” he says.