Legal identity facing hefty fine after ‘dishonesty’
A FORMER Brisbane law firm principal on 13 disciplinary charges could face a hefty fine and be restricted in how he can practise in future.
Counsel for the Legal Services Commissioner on Wednesday asked for a tribunal to fine James Beresford Loel, a former partner of West End law firm, Lillas and Loel, $20,000.
Deborah Holliday, for the LSC, said Mr Loel should also have some restriction on his practising certificate because of his "gross negligence, recklessness and dishonesty".
One charge alleges Loel dishonestly transferred a client's money from a trust account in 2007 and other charges allege he failed to act for clients with competence and diligence.
Ms Holliday said eight charges should be declared unsatisfactory professional conduct, while five other charges should be found to be professional misconduct.
She said in an earlier affidavit Mr Loel denied he had been dishonest, but he now accepted he acted dishonestly.
As a result of the dishonesty, he had been paid $55,000 owed to the firm by a client for whom he should not have been acting, Ms Holliday said.
She also asked that Loel only be allowed to work in a law firm as an employee and said it was an appropriate case for a $20,000 pecuniary penalty.
Mr Loel's practising certificate was cancelled by Queensland Law Society in 2018.
His barrister told the tribunal the former director of Lillas and Loel was no longer personally involved in the law firm.
Although Mr Loel did not intend to immediately resume legal practise, if he was to regain his practising certificate, he could be employed by the firm, the tribunal was told.
Mr Loel's barrister said he could be mentored by another lawyer for 12 months if he returned to practise.
Loel had undergone significant rehabilitation since the offending conduct, between 2007 and 2015, ceasing drinking and undergoing therapy, the tribunal heard.
It was submitted that Mr Loel had already had a "de facto suspension", as he had not practised for two years.
It was submitted that there was no guarantee of long-term employment for Mr Loel, at his age, if there were lengthy practise restrictions, given the current economic situation.
The tribunal reserved its disciplinary decision.
Originally published as Brisbane legal identity facing hefty fine after 'dishonesty'