A man who advertised online as a lawyer with experience in a range of fields – though never admitted – has given an undertaking not to engage in legal practice.
The Legal Services Commissioner obtained a Supreme Court order against Stephen Arulogun and his company, Talus Services Pty Ltd, trading as PEF Capital and IR Advocates.
Mr Arulogun had a law degree, but had never been admitted as a lawyer, the court was told.
His conduct was first referred to the Legal Services Commission by Queensland Supreme Court Judge Ken Barlow, when Mr Arulogun acted as a ‘McKenzie’s friend’ for a plaintiff in a case.
Mr Arulogun described himself to the court as a ‘litigation process consultant’, but at the end of the trial Judge Barlow expressed concern.
He said Mr Arulogun “may well have gone beyond the bounds of non-legal assistance and advice and strayed into practising as only a person admitted to practise as a legal practitioner is entitled to do”.
The LSC discovered Mr Arulogun was advertising on online site Airtasker.
In bids for work he described himself as a lawyer with experience in a whole range of fields, from commercial advice to family law and even as a principal of his own practice, the LSC said.
He has since deactivated his Airtasker profile.
“Unlawful operation includes a wide variety of conduct, ranging from unqualified persons making court appearances on behalf of others, to lawyers without a current practising certificate giving legal advice,” Legal Services Commissioner Megan Mahon said.
“These unlawful operators pose a threat to the public by providing unqualified and usually poor advice and operating without the appropriate indemnity insurance, leaving members of the public exposed should things go awry.”
Mr Arulogun gave undertakings personally, and in his capacity as director of Talus Services, to not engage in legal practice or advertise that they could do so, while not qualified.
The Legal Services Commissioner also obtained a Supreme Court injunction against a former law practice employee, Karli Helen McLachlan, who was found guilty of fraud in 2016.
Ms McLachlan is prohibited by the injunction from seeking to be or being employed by a law practice or being associated with a law practice.
The LSC told the court Ms McLachlan had not notified two law practices where she had been employed about her fraud conviction.
A law practice must have approval from Queensland Law Society to employ a person if the practice knows they have been found guilty of a serious offence.
The LSC said it was concerned about Ms McLachlan’s conduct while employed at each of the practices.
“The commission was gravely concerned about the risk to clients if Ms McLachlan was to gain employment at a law practice again and took prompt action to seek this protective injunction,’’ Ms Mahon said.