Inexperienced lawyer wants to bypass rules to practice on his own

An experienced lawyer named Hierophantic Harlequinesque Human is petitioning to be allowed to practice on his own but a tribunal said it was a matter of public protection that he shouldn’t.

Humans appeared before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal in Auckland yesterday to argue against the Law Society’s decision to reject his application for a practicing certificate.

“A substantial miscarriage of justice has occurred,” Human told the tribunal. “The Law Society has been acting with institutional bias against me.”

Human, who dons a mask, wig, and gloves in a photo showing his Master of Laws certificate, has only worked as a lawyer for about 18 months, almost eight years ago.

While there’s no formal period set down in regulation about how much time a lawyer must train for after being admitted to the bar before going out on their own, they do have to meet a minimum standard of competency.

Human graduated and was admitted to the bar in 2005. Following that he practiced under a barrister for seven months before practicing on his own for 11 months.

Nowadays the requirement is that newly qualified lawyers practice under guidance for three years but the regulations under the Lawyer’s and Conveyancers Act were different at the time.

Part of his argument yesterday centered on the fact that he had previously worked on his own.

However his practicing certificate lapsed in 2011 and in 2014 he successfully appealed against a Law Society decision to reject his application for a sole practicing certificate.

He then went overseas in 2015 for some time, returning to complete a Master of Laws but he hasn’t practiced as a lawyer since then.

Today, he was before the tribunal to argue that he met that level of competency.

As part of his evidence Human said he’d recently taken several extra-curricular law courses and had completed a master’s degree.

Hierophantic Human graduated with a Master of Laws earlier this year.  Photos / FacebookHierophantic Human graduated with a Master of Laws earlier this year. Photos / Facebook

He also said while working as front-of-house staff at the Rydges Hotel he’d listened in on a law conference held in one of their meeting rooms, had sat in on a lengthy courtroom trial, and had successfully argued his own tenancy dispute through the Tenancy Tribunal, stating that these counted as recent experience.

“I understand the Law Society has made much of a difference between academic and practical experience and that me completing a Master of Laws can be seen as purely academic,” he said.

Human said the Law Society had been dismissive and negative about his application and had not even requested to interview him about his knowledge of the law when he applied for a certificate.

The Law Society’s counsel, Paul Collins, said Human’s mentor in 2014 had expressed concern about his ability to practice on his own, and instead suggested he be an employed barrister first.

“Throughout the mentoring period I pushed him towards a job in a firm where he would receive a regular income and would have adequate oversight in matters of law,” that mentor’s communications to the Law Society said at the time.

Collins said Human’s mentor had expressed time and again how his interests lay in not going out on his own, but instead receiving more instruction by being a full-time lawyer with more supervision.

In response Human said he had applied for as many as 60 jobs in the last few years and had secured roughly five interviews, however he’d been unsuccessful.

“The problem now is that he’s been out of practice for so long and I do emphasize the difference between academic and practical experience,” Collins said.

“It is fundamental that there is a distinction between live practical experience on the ground, which is what practicing on your own account is about … and attending a course or doing a Master’s degree.”

Collins said it was a matter of public protection that Humans were not allowed to practice on their own.

“It could be a matter of sympathy, but there is no sympathy vote on the tribunal,” he said.

The tribunal’s chair, John Adams, said Human was asking to be excused from the apprenticeship practice that most lawyers go through to practice on their own accounts.

“You’re articulate and of good character, there’s no impediment to you practicing law,” he said.

“It’s a question of whether you can practice law on your own account without that practical experience that every other lawyer has undertaken.”

The tribunal reserved its decision until a later date.

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