Lawyer faces fine over case management

A lawyer who took on more work than he could handle is facing a $20,000 fine, after failing to improve his case management despite a warning from the Law Society.

Mr S. K. Kumar had "habitually" been late for court hearings and was often "overcommitted", a Disciplinary Tribunal heard.

The lawyer of 25 years' standing, who until April 2011 practised law as a sole proprietor, did not improve despite being warned in 2010 by the society.

He had hired legal assistants but the helpers were of "limited help" because they were unfamiliar with the cases given to them, and often had to seek adjournments from the court.

In a hearing in April this year, Mr Kumar admitted to six charges against him.

These concerned 22 different incidents over about two years where he was "absent, late or overcommitted" for hearings in the Subordinate Courts.

The lawyer said, however, that he had not acted out of intentional disrespect or dishonesty. He said that his conduct arose, rather, from "poor or extremely poor practice management".

The tribunal, presided over by Senior Counsel Goh Phai Cheng, agreed.

It recommended a $20,000 fine as punishment, while deciding not to refer the matter to a Court of Three Judges, which has the power to suspend lawyers, fine them or strike them off the rolls.

Earlier this year, Mr Kumar was handed a three-month suspension for failing to communicate directly with a client who was selling her HDB flat in 2009.

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