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Law Society intervenes in two practices

Law Society intervenes in two practices

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 05 Jun 2020
Author: K.C. Vijayan

Client accounts of both firms frozen; lawyer of one practised without renewing certificate.

The Law Society has intervened in the practice of two law firms and frozen their client accounts.

In the first case last month, it said it is probing a law firm where a veteran lawyer operated without renewing his practising certificate.

A spokesman for the Law Society told The Straits Times that the certificate of the veteran lawyer, who runs N D Law Chambers, had expired on March 31 and there was no application to renew it.

As a result, the society intervened in the practice and all accounts of the law firm on May 13, based on the Legal Profession Act.

"The effect of this statutory intervention is to suspend the operation of the law practice and freeze all client accounts relating to the law practice," said the spokesman. "In the circumstances, the sole proprietor of the law practice cannot continue managing the operations of the law practice with effect from the date of the statutory intervention."

The lawyer was not named.

Lawyers said that to renew a practising certificate, law firms must prove that the preceding year's client accounts had been duly cleared by an auditor.

A check yesterday showed the firm had vacated its premises in Roberts Lane in Little India.

The firm, which employed several support staff, handled mostly personal injury claims.

Many involved small claims such as those by accident victim S. Hairul, 36, who was told on May 11 that a compensation cheque for $2,000 would be sent to the law firm by the vehicle insurer.

He had suffered bruises and wounds from a collision between his motorcycle and a vehicle on Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway in April last year.

"There was no update from the firm after three weeks and I called the firm's number on June 2. I was told it was the wrong number and the place is no longer linked to the firm," said Mr Hairul, who was disappointed as he needed the cash.

The Law Society yesterday also intervened in the accounts of another law firm, The Southern Law Corporation, and froze all client accounts related to it.

The spokesman said: "The law corporation can continue its practice save that no withdrawals can be made from its client accounts. (The Law Society's council) exercised its regulatory functions to intervene in the law corporation to protect client monies and to maintain public confidence in the legal profession."

She added that the council will, in due course, take over and examine the bank accounts of the firm.

Separately, Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran on Tuesday announced help for members - an estimated $1.3 million worth of compensation fund waivers and a 25 per cent rebate on the practising certificate fees for the current practising year which ends on March 31 next year.

The compensation fund administered by the society provides grants to applicants who have suffered losses caused by a lawyer's dishonesty or his staff, among other things.

This is the second round of support for members. The society had last month waived practising certificate fees and compensation fund contributions for newly called lawyers.

Senior Counsel Vijayendran said: "As we prepare to emerge from an atypical two months of an unprecedented business disruption, we know that for some of you here, you are teetering on the brink with law firm sustainability questions and a prognosis of months of weak economic outlook ahead."

The two rounds of support cost the society more than $2.3 million.

Mr Vijayendran said the money came from the society's reserves, and paid tribute to previous councils' prudent fiscal and financial stewardship. He stressed that the council remains committed to being financially prudent to ensure that the society will not face its own sustainability issues.

He urged members who are coping well and do not need the rebates to consider contributing to one of the Law Society's welfare and charitable entities.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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