Australian Solicitor Reprimanded for Advising Client to “Ignore” Hearing Date

Lawyers Weekly Reports, that in a recent Western Australia case, a Family Lawyer was publicly reprimanded by the Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal (‘WASAT’) for intentionally delaying divorce proceedings and advising his client to disregard the hearing. The Solicitor was accused of deliberately seeking to delay the divorce proceedings. Lawyers Weekly reported that in the course of acting for this Family Law client, the Solicitor did the following:

  1. assured a Registrar that he would file an Affidavit from the client and failed to do so;
  1. did not file a Notice of Acting despite being aware that the client had informed the Registrar that he would do so; and
  1. advised the client to ‘ignore’ the hearing date failed to appear at the next hearing date for the proceedings.

This conduct by the Solicitor was considered by WASAT to amount to professional misconduct within the meaning of section 403 of Legal Profession Act 2008 (WA) (‘the Act’).

The finding of professional misconduct was compounded by additional criticisms. The Solicitor was faulted for transferring the client’s case to another firm without adequately informing the client or respecting her autonomy in choosing her own legal representation. The client also alleged that she was unaware of the Divorce Order made in August 2018, indicating a breakdown in communication and transparency.

In response to these findings, WASAT imposed a public reprimand, a substantial fine of $18,000, and mandated the Solicitor to cover the Legal Services and Complaints Committee’s (LSCC) costs totalling $6,000. This serves not only as punitive action but also a stark reminder of the professional obligations and ethical standards that Solicitors are expected to uphold.

Under the Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2015 (WA) (‘Solicitors’ Conduct Rules) Solicitors have an ethical duty to act in the best interest of a client and deliver legal services competently, diligently and promptly. A Solicitor also has a paramount duty to the court and the administration of justice. A breach of these rules can constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct, subjecting solicitors to disciplinary measures by regulatory authorities.

Professional misconduct is defined within the Act to mean unsatisfactory professional conduct involving a substantial or consistent failure to reach or maintain a reasonable standard of competence and diligence. Professional misconduct is therefore a more severe finding under the Act than mere unsatisfactory professional conduct and attracts higher penalties for Solicitors.

The Solicitor’s failure to fulfill fundamental duties, such as filing necessary documents and appearing in court, not only compromised the client’s interests but also hindered the judicial process. Such lapses were deemed inconsistent with maintaining a reasonable standard of competence and diligence, constituting professional misconduct.

In essence, the case underscores the critical role played by the Solicitor Conduct Rules and disciplinary bodies in safeguarding clients’ interests and upholding the integrity of the legal profession and the justice system. These mechanisms serve as essential safety nets, ensuring accountability and maintaining public trust in legal practitioners.

Family law is a highly emotional and complex area of law where families navigate through parenting, property and relationships disputes.​ During these times, you need a competent and experienced family law lawyers who understands what you are going through, thinks carefully and proactively on your behalf and knows how to represent you for the best possible outcome.​

If you want to understand your rights, contact Salerno Law and discover why we are Gold Coast’s best family lawyers.

Author Aspen Roggeveen