A GOLD Coast solicitor has had his practising certificate suspended for four months for professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct.
Queensland’s Legal Practice Tribunal found solicitor Douglas McClelland guilty of professional misconduct for breaching Rule 78 of the Queensland Law Society Rules 1987 (Qld) by sharing the receipts of his law practice with an unqualified person. He was also found guilty of unprofessional conduct for failing to provide a Lawyer’s Certificate to purchaser clients, in contravention of section 365B(2) of the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000 (Qld).
McClelland had an “arrangement” with Simply Conveyancing Australia Pty Ltd, a company owned by his former colleague, Anne Mullins. Under the deal, Mullins organised contracts to be signed by purchasers, assisted with securing finance then referred them to McClelland to complete the conveyances. The pair split the $2,500 fee for each matter between them, with Mullins pocketing $1,000 while McClelland got $1,500.
However, Mullins did not hold a solicitor’s practising certificate and was therefore forbidden by Queensland law to carry out this type of work.
In the Tribunal’s judgment, Chief Justice de Jersey described the facts as follows: “The respondent entered into an arrangement which facilitated the carrying out of illegal conveyancing work by an unqualified person, and shared the receipts derived from the work of the unqualified person.”
Chief Justice de Jersey concluded that McClelland and Mullins worked “in tandem under a collaborative agreement” in which McClelland “confined himself to that segment which appealed to him”.
In delivering the Tribunal’s judgment, Chief Justice de Jersey drew a distinction between professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct, saying the charge under Rule 78 was clearly a case of the former.
“In this context, it was plainly a case of professional misconduct, as was the view of the Full Court in the factually comparable case of Adamson. As put for the applicant, this arrangement “facilitated illegal conveyancing”. As to gravity, it was an arrangement apparently crafted with some care to avoid a perception of sharing.”
In suspending McClelland’s practising certificate, Chief Justice de Jersey said it was necessary to impose more than a pecuniary penalty. He described the suspension as “a response which will not only require the respondent to pause so that he can come to a better appreciation of his ethical obligation, and his supervening obligation in particular to uphold the law, but will also signal clearly to the profession generally the unacceptability of this sort of conduct.”
McClelland has until Christmas Eve to appeal the decision.