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Lawyer reprimanded and fined

Lawyer reprimanded and fined

A Melbourne lawyer has been reprimanded, ordered to pay $30,000, and restricted from practicing as a lawyer in some areas of practice by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Daniel Oldham has been restricted to practicing only in specific areas of the law after the charges were brought against him by the Legal Services Commissioner. Oldham issued maintained legal proceedings in relation to two separate bushfire class actions without obtaining the appropriate authority or instructions from the nominated clients.

Oldham pleaded guilty to the charges.

The lawyer issued legal proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria in December 2008 for a class action in relation to the Alpine Bushfires, and in February 2009 issued separate legal proceedings for a class action in relation to the Black Saturday Bushfires. On both occasions, Oldham listed the names of individual clients as the lead plaintiffs without their prior knowledge or consent.

When the client in the Alpine Bushfires class action learnt that he had been listed as the lead plaintiff, he requested that his name be removed as lead plaintiff. Oldham failed to remove the client’s name immediately - and even then for some three months – when asked to do so. Oldham also caused costs to be ordered against the lead plaintiff in the Black Saturday Bushfires class action as a result of Oldham not knowing the obligations on the lead plaintiff under the Supreme Court Act 1986.

Legal Services Commissioner, Michael McGarvie, said the case highlights the dangers of lawyers undertaking legal work in areas of law where their knowledge or experience is limited.

“Oldham had no prior experience of dealing with class actions, nor did he adequately research or understand the legal requirements or processes relating to this complex area of law,” said McGarvie.

For a period of two years, Oldham can only practice in the areas of building law, construction law, property law and owners corporation law. He was also ordered to pay the amount of $30,000 towards the LSC’s costs of the proceedings.

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