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  • Evil and dumb: attack on Victoria's lawyers
  • By Mark Russell
  • The Age
  • 18/12/2005 Make a Comment (1)
  • Contributed by: PrincePlanet ( 1 article in 2005 )
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THE OUTGOING legal watchdog has launched a scathing attack on Victorian lawyers, branding some of them "evil" and "dumb".

In a parting shot after she left the job last week, Kate Hamond complained that a number of lawyers were living up to the stereotype of being money-hungry and heartless.

"I have seen some dreadful lawyers," Ms Hamond, who has dealt with thousands of complaints from the public since taking over the role of legal ombudsman in 1999, told The Sunday Age, "I've seen evil lawyers who are almost sociopathic, they don't seem to care, but, thankfully, they are in the minority. Some of them are just dumb too.

"I've found there are some lawyers who can't seem to write a letter properly. Maybe it's the schoolteacher coming out in me, but I do find it offensive to get spelling mistakes from a lawyer."

Ms Hamond said that of all the complaints her office had received, the cases that stuck in her mind were the ones in which lawyers had taken advantage of the most vulnerable people in the community.

She recalled one disturbing case in which a lawyer had sexually preyed on a young female client who had suffered brain damage in a car accident, leaving her with the intelligence of an eight-year-old. The lawyer was later suspended, but the damage done to the victim and her family was incalculable.

"You feel the hurt of the community and the lack of trust and confidence in lawyers which does terrible damage to the legal profession as a whole," Ms Hamond said.

She said some lawyers, as in any other profession, battled drug, alcohol and psychiatric problems and often did not know how to separate their personal and professional lives.

"All of these things are very sad for them, but they have absolutely no right to affect their clients with their problems."

Ms Hamond said the profession would never be able to weed out bad lawyers.

"There's always a new crop coming on," she said.

"Lawyers seem to be the butt of many jokes but that could be because the public lack confidence in them. Most people seem to be fixated on the money that these lawyers are getting, that they're just ripping us all off and charging us too much."

Ms Hamond said lawyers had to become better communicators.

"Generally, people are quite intimidated by their lawyer.

"They do tend to think, 'I'm a nothing, what would I know, I don't understand a word he or she says but I best let them get on with it', which isn't a very responsible way of dealing with your own affairs.

"The law can be complicated but I've seen some outstanding lawyers who know how to explain it to their clients so they're working as a team rather than some white knight leading into the fray."

More than 13,000 lawyers and 1600 barristers practise in Victoria.

Law Institute of Victoria chief executive John Cain said it was unfortunate that Ms Hamond was prepared to make such "sweeping, bald assertions" about the legal profession.

"In her role no doubt she has seen those that have been the subject of complaints and been involved in disciplinary matters, but it is unfair and unreasonable to put all lawyers in the same basket," Mr Cain said.

"She just fails to recognise that when you're a complaint handler you're always going to be dealing with the lowest common denominator."

Determined to be an independent "public protector", Ms Hamond, a former primary school teacher, often clashed with the Law Institute and the Victorian Bar when handling complaints against lawyers.

The relationship between Ms Hamond and the lawyers' groups became bitter and was described as "poisonous" by Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who abolished the ombudsman's office and replaced it with a Legal Services Commissioner, a position taken up by Victoria Marles last week.

Ms Marles will provide a "one-stop shop" for complaints but will refer most cases to the LIV and VB for investigation.

Ms Hamond, who denies being bitter over her dumping, said she had genuine concerns about the new changes, especially with lawyers continuing to regulate their colleagues.


KATE HAMOND'S office handled 820 complaints in 2004-05, compared with 807 the previous year. The Law Institute handled 1715 complaints (1921 in 2003-04) and the Victorian Bar handled 93 complaints (86 in 2003-04). Most complaints were about negligence, including poor case-handling and advice, and concerns over costs and bills.


    By:Eric from Victoria, Australia on December 26, 2018 @ 7:58 pm
    Too bad we don't have more like Ms Hamond.... we sure as hell need to keep the legal profession in check at all times.

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