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Selina Lum & K.C. Vijayan
Thu, Oct 04, 2007
The Straits Times
Teacher's first lawyer faces Law Society probe

LAWYER Andrew Hanam arrived in court too late yesterday to hear what the Chief Justice had to say about the way he handled his ex-client's case.

After he was told by reporters that the Law Society has been asked by the CJ to hold an inquiry into his conduct, his next question was: ''What about costs?''

Everything about primary school teacher Jonathan Lock's legal tangle revolved around costs - what he had to pay Mr Hanam and NTUC Income in legal fees.

Mr Hanam had billed Mr Lock $80,000 for work done for an accident case that escalated to the High Court.

He was supposed to be in court today to have his legal bill assessed. But yesterday, the Court of Appeal made it clear he won't get a cent unless he sought its permission first.

Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong also wants the Law Society to see if Mr Hanam had acted in Mr Lock's best interest or had breached his professional duties.

At the hearing on Tuesday, Mr Lock's new lawyer, Mr Joseph Chen, had shown the court a letter from Mr Hanam telling Mr Lock that he would be billing him for $150,000. This was on July 13.

CJ Chan said the court was 'troubled' by this.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr Hanam appeared unperturbed by the turn of events and expressed confidence he would be exonerated should an inquiry be held. 'I do not think I have misconducted myself in any way nor has there been any negligence on my part,'' he said.

He also maintained that Mr Lock had been aware of every step he took. The figure of $150,000 mentioned in court had been misconstrued, he said.

At the time he sent the letter, Mr Lock was to pay $65,000 to NTUC Income's lawyers. This was later reduced to $45,000.

Also, Mr Hanam said he thought he would be representing Mr Lock on appeal and factored that into his estimate. But when the costs came down to $45,000 and he realised he would not be representing Mr Lock in the Court of Appeal, the final bill was reduced to $80,000.

These issues are likely to be canvassed at another court date he has with Mr Lock on Oct 10.

Mr Lock has sued Mr Hanam for, among other things, breach of professional duties, alleging he ran up costs and exposed him to increased liabilities.

Mr Hanam is seeking to strike out the suit as 'frivolous'. He is also in turn suing Mr Lock for defamation.

Confident he would get his way, Mr Hanam told The Straits Times that a victory would clear his way to seek the Court of Appeal's permission to have his $80,000 bill - for legal services rendered to Mr Lock - assessed.

Mr Hanam, in his late 30s, was a business development manager at Asia-Pacific Breweries before he took up law as a career.

He obtained his law degree in London and was called to the Bar in 1998. He joined a string of small firms before setting up his own sole proprietorship, Andrew & Co. He had also taught legal writing at the National University of Singapore's law faculty.

selinal@sph.com.sg

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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