Quake lawyer censured for negligence

An Auckland lawyer who is handling the most earthquake-related High Court cases in Christchurch has been censured on a charge of negligence or incompetence.

Grant Shand appeared before the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal and admitted a charge of negligence or incompetence to such a degree that it tended to bring the profession into disrepute.

The charge was brought by a Lawyers Standards Committee of the New Zealand Law Society.

In a statement released today, the Law Society said the charge arose when a client of Shand initially accepted a settlement offer of $120,000 in cash and $30,000 in installments but then changed his mind and told Shand he wanted to reject the offer.

Shand devised a way to make the settlement proposal work and - although he persuaded himself he was acting within his instructions - settled the matter without clearing it with his client. This was a surprise to his client, who thought he had rejected the settlement offer.

The Tribunal censured Shand and ordered that he pay $1,900 of compensation, legal costs of $16,508 and hearing costs of $3,369.

New Zealand Law Society president Chris Moore said it was a cardinal rule for all lawyers that they kept their clients fully informed and maintained a relationship of confidence and trust.

"The Lawyers Conduct and Client Care Rules state that the professional judgement of a lawyer must always be exercised within the professional obligations of the lawyer solely for the benefit of the client," he said.

Shand told The Press the Law Society statement was ''misleading'', but declined to comment further.

The Press