Lawyer reprimanded and ordered to pay fine for handling trust money
June 12, 2012
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered on 23 May 2012 that Melbourne lawyer Sulaika Dhanapala be reprimanded and pay a fine of $1,000 following charges brought against her by the Legal Services Commissioner (LSC).
The charges stemmed from a case involving another lawyer, Mr Wilbert Mapombere, with whom Ms Dhanapala was in partnership. Mr Mapombere handled a probate matter, which required him to receive trust money in the sum of $101,863, however, neither Ms Dhanapala nor Mr Mapombere held a practising certificate authorising them to receive trust money. They deducted $19,226 from the total amount received to cover their legal fees but failed to issue the client with invoices for their services.
The LSC brought charges against Ms Dhanapala for her conduct in accepting trust money when her practising certificate was subject to a condition that prohibited her from doing so and for co-signing the cheques that Mr Mapombere presented to her so the money could be taken as fees.
In his reasons for his decision, Senior Member Jonathan Smithers, took into account the fact that the “major part of the fault in these matters lay with Mr Mapombere”.
Ms Dhanapala was also ordered to pay the LSC’s costs of the proceedings in the sum of $4,000.