Auckland Standards Committee v Lisa Kate Tregenza
 NZLCDT 31
NEW ZEALAND LAWYERS AND CONVEYANCERS DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL
MEMBERS OF TRIBUNAL
Judge BJ Kendall (retired)
Ms C Rowe
Ms S Sage
Mr T Simmonds
Mr W Smith
Mr R Marchant for the Standards Committee
Mr J Katz QC for the Respondent
Penalty for unsatisfactory conduct under s241(b) Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 — the practitioner admitted the charge of unsatisfactory conduct — a client complained that the practitioner had not been given her a letter of engagement for work done — during the course of the enquiry, the practitioner wrote to the New Zealand Law Society and to the client's new solicitors enclosing a letter of instruction — she later admitted she had written the letter in November and not when the work commenced in April — the practitioner self-reported her conduct in respect of the letter of engagement, saying that she foolishly had regarded the letter of engagement as a mere formality and wrongly thought that it was the only way to rectify the situation — the Standards Committee said that the practitioner should be censured because her actions misled both the Law Society and another practitioner — in addition to an agreed fine of $5,000.00, full legal costs and reimbursement of the Tribunal's hearing costs, the Standards Committee sought a censure — whether censure was required.
Held: The practitioner had had an unblemished career over many years with no disciplinary history. She self-reported and promptly acknowledged her error and apologised for it. She addressed the Tribunal and had shown genuine remorse.
The practitioner was of good character and was unlikely to offend again. There was no element that required protection of the public. She was a valuable member of the profession as was evidenced by the references provided by her peers who were made fully aware of the charges and the particulars. As notedin in , matters of good character, reputation, and absence of prior transgressions, counted in favour of the practitioner, together with acknowledgement of error, wrongdoing and expressions of remorse and contrition.
A fine of $5,000.00 and costs were imposed.
The respondent was originally charged with misconduct under s 241(a) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (Act) and within the meaning of s 7 (1)(a)(i) and/or 7(1)(a)(ii) of the Act and Rule 11.1 Lawyers Conduct and Client Care Rules 2008. The charge was dated 9 March 2016.
The particulars of the charge were:
(a) On 4 September 2015 the practitioner received from Frost and Sutcliffe Barristers and Solicitors an authority to uplift the file of Lemapu Onosemu.
(b) The practitioner declined to hand over the file because Mrs Onosemu had approximately $2,000 of outstanding fees.
(c) On 9 September 2015 the practitioner received another email expressing urgency to hand over the file and requesting the bill of costs and letter of engagement for work done on Mrs Onosemu's file.
(d) On 5 October 2015 Mrs Onosemu made a complaint to the Lawyer's Complaints Service alleging that the practitioner had failed to provide a letter of engagement, bill of costs and her file.
(e) During the course of the enquiry and on or about 5 November 2015 the practitioner wrote to Richard Moss of the New Zealand Law Society and to Frost and Sutcliffe enclosing a letter of instruction dated 21 April 2015 (date).
(f) The date was false because the letter of engagement was not created until November 2015.
(g) In doing so the practitioner made a false representation to the New Zealand Law Society and to Frost and Sutcliffe and/or breached Rule 11.1 of the Lawyer's Conduct and Client Care Rules 2008 by falsely representing that a letter of engagement had been created and sent on 21 April 2015 when it had not.
The Tribunal granted the Committee leave to file an amended charge on 19 April 2016.
The amended charge dated 4 August 2016 repeated the original charge of misconduct and added alternative charges of unsatisfactory conduct (s 241(b) of the Act) or negligence/incompetence (s 241(c) of the Act).
The Committee repeated the particulars of charge relied on in support of the original charge.
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