Re Lau Liat Meng

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChua F A J
Judgment Date29 May 1992
Neutral Citation[1992] SGHC 147
Citation[1992] SGHC 147
Defendant CounselWoo Tchi Chu (Robert WH Wang & Woo)
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 446 of 1991
Plaintiff CounselAC Fergusson and Leslie Phua (AC Fergusson)
Published date19 September 2003
Date29 May 1992
Subject MatterLegal Profession,Overcharging,Grossly improper conduct,Professional conduct,Whether amounting to grossly improper conduct,s 83 Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 1990 Ed)

Judgment:

Coram: Yong Pung How CJ Lai Kew Chai J F A Chua J

Cur Adv Vult

JUDGMENT

The respondent is an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court who was admitted to the bar on 9 March 1962. He founded the firm of Lau Liat Meng & Co in 1964 and is now the sole proprietor practising mainly in mortgages, conveyances and loans. Over the last 20 years before these proceedings, he had handled less than 20 estate matters.

2 The facts which led to the present proceedings as set out in the Law Society's statement of case were as follows. On or about 24 July 1989 the respondent was instructed by one Madam Chang Ka Geck ("Chang") to act in the winding up of the estate of Tan Joon Tat deceased, the husband of Chang, who died in Singapore on 3 July 1989. The respondent accepted the instructions and made an application for a grant of letters of administration in Probate No 1462 of 1989. Letters of administration were granted to Chang on 2 October 1989 and were issued on 16 December 1989, the deputy commissioner of estate duties having certified that no estate duty was payable in respect of the property of the deceased. According to the estate duty affidavit the assets of the estate were as follows:-

ASSETS

$

(a) Post Office Savings Bank A/C No 067-04262-0 2,694.05

(b) Refund due from Housing & Development Board being deposit for the purchase of a flat under sales registration number MT543059C/690552H9,000.00

(c) Sole-proprietorship business known as "Yong Choon Trading Co" including inter alia A/C No 0149-042996-001 at Hong Kong Bank54,427.01

(d) Central Provident Fund balance 1,773.47 ------------ 68,394.53 ------------

Property in respect of which the grant was not to be made

(e) Insurance Policy No 1088309-7 with The Great Eastern Life Assurance Co Ltd10,651.20

(f) Policy No Q51-208927-6 with American International Assurance Co Ltd 15,000.00

(g) Policies with NTUC Co-operative Insurance Commonwealth Enterprise Ltd: No 6104635-914,522.05 No 6186110-721,000.00 $129,567.78

3 The respondent was not concerned with the property in respect of which the grant was not to be made, as the monies under the various insurance policies had been released directly to Chang by the companies. Chang also instructed the respondent to arrange the transfer to her of the deceased's residential premises at Block 433 No 1403K, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, Singapore, Lease No I/HB 16043B. These premises were held by the deceased and Chang as joint tenants, and the lease was duly transferred to Chang as sole proprietor. Chang required the respondent to act expeditiously at all stages of the proceedings and it was accepted that the respondent did so act.

4 The respondent rendered his bill No 1056/1989 dated 19 December 1989 in the sum of $23,000 as fees for professional services rendered and $604.60 as disbursements. Chang was dissatisfied with the amount of the bill and arranged for Andy Teo, the friend who had originally introduced her to the respondent, to complain on her behalf to the respondent about the bill and to ask for a reduction. As a result of the complaint made by Andy Teo on Chang's behalf the respondent agreed to reduce the professional fees of $23,000 by 5% to $21,850 with the disbursements remaining unchanged at $604.60. This reduction failed to satisfy Chang who, after settling the bill, wrote to the Law Society on 2 January 1990 concerning the amount of the bill.

5 There is no scale of costs or guidelines issued by the Law Society for solicitors' remuneration for work done in applying for legal representation to the estate of a deceased person. As a result of her complaint against the respondent, a disciplinary committee was appointed on 30 May 1990 to hear and investigate the complaint that the respondent had...

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10 cases
  • Law Society of Singapore v Andre Ravindran Saravanapavan Arul
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 20 April 2012
    ...to the following precedents where solicitors had been suspended from practice for the gross overcharging of clients: Re Lau Liat Meng [1992] 2 SLR(R) 186, Re Han Ngiap Juan [1993] 1 SLR(R) 135 and Law Society of Singapore v Low Yong Sen [2009] 1 SLR(R) 802 (“Low Yong Sen”). In these three c......
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    ...9/1996 (9 August 1996) [1996] HCA Trans 300 (refd) Han Ngiap Juan, Re [1993] 1 SLR (R) 135; [1993] 2 SLR 81 (distd) Lau Liat Meng, Re [1992] 2 SLR (R) 186; [1992] 2 SLR 203 (distd) Law Society of Singapore v Low Yong Sen [2009] 1 SLR (R) 802; [2009] 1 SLR 802 (distd) Law Society of Singapor......
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