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Bad things can happen to you

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This hardly qualifies as Friday Fun, but one of the stirring things I have read this week involves a disciplinary case of lawyers in Singapore. One of the best advice I have ever received as a young lawyer was to pay special attention to news regarding lawyers being disclipined for breaches of guidelines and ethics. It helps you learn from other’s mistakes. Imagining with a foot on that person’s shoes, you may be able to see how your decisions can play out.

This post focuses on a senior lawyer who was struck off the rolls (ie he cannot practice anymore at least for the foreseeable future) for forging documents issued by the court and lying to his client about it. The actual court decision does not say much, but the news reporting from the Today newspaper is more insightful.

The basic outline of events seems to be like this:

  • Lawyer was supposed to file bankruptcy proceedings on his client’s behalf against a debtor
  • For reasons unknown, lawyer had to lie to his client that he did, so he forged documents to show he did.
  • As part of the ruse, he told he debtor that proceedings have started against him.
  • After a while, debtor began to realise that the lawyer had lied to him.
  • The debtor then appeared to blackmail the lawyer by complaining to the Law society, saying he would withdraw it if the lawyer took over his debt
  • The lawyer didn’t take the bait, and proceedings went on and he was struck off.

Like I said, for reasons unknown, the lawyer had to lie that he acted on client instructions when he did not. Sometimes losing a client or a negligence action might be a better option than trying to dig a hole you can’t get out of.