Stephen Finley, the sole proprietor of Messrs. Finley & Co. (the “Respondent”)

• Rule 2(a), (c), (d) and (e) of the Solicitors’ Practice Rules (“SPR”)

• Principles 6.04, 12.04, 12.05, 13.02 and 14.02 of the Hong Kong Solicitors’ Guide to Professional Conduct, Volume 1, Second Edition (“Guide”)

• Section 8AA of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance (Cap 159) (“LPO”)

Hearing date:
24, 25 July and 6, 13 August 2012

Statement of Findings:
6 June 2013

Reasons and Order:
9 December 2013

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (“Tribunal”) found the following complaints against the Respondent proved after holding substantive hearings on 24, 25 July and 6, 13 August 2012 respectively:

1st Complaint
Breaches of Rule 2(a), (c), (d) and (e) of the SPR and Principle 13.02 of the Guide in that on or about 1 September 2009, a cheque which the Respondent issued on his office account to his client (whom he had acted for in a District Court proceedings and the claim was partially successful),was dishonoured.

2nd Complaint
Breaches of Rule 2(a) and (d) of the SPR and Principle 13.02 of the Guide in that on or about 28 April and 28 May 2010, cheques which the Respondent issued on his office account to the landlord of his firm’s office premises (the “Landlord”) were dishonoured.

3rd Complaint
Breaches of Rule 2(a) and (d) of the SPR in that the Respondent failed between 13 August 2009 and 31 January 2010 to pay to the Landlord the rent, management fees and rates due on his firm’s office premises, allowed the Landlord to enter judgment against him for the unpaid rent, etc. and allowed the Landlord to serve a statutory demand on him in connection with the unpaid rent, etc.

4th Complaint
Breaches of Rule 2(a), (c), (d) and (e) of the SPR and Principle 14.02 of the Guide in that the Respondent did not comply with an undertaking he gave to another solicitors’ firm during September 2009 to return to that another solicitors’ firm an assignment in connection with the purchase of a property in Sky Tower, Kowloon.

5th Complaint
Breaches of Principles 12.04 and 12.05 of the Guide in that the Respondent did not either pay or challenge, within two (2) months, fee notes delivered by a Senior Counsel (the “Senior Counsel”) on 10 July and 21 October 2008.

6th Complaint
Breaches of Rule 2(d) of the SPR and Principle 12.05 of the Guide in that as at 1 November 2011 the Respondent did not pay the fees notes delivered by the Senior Counsel on 10 July and 21 October 2008.

7th Complaint
Breaches of Rule 2(a) and (d) of the SPR and Principle 13.02 of the Guide in that on or about 31 December 2009 and 3 February 2010, cheques issued by the Respondent on his office account to the Senior Counsel were dishonoured.

8th Complaint
A breach of Principle 6.04 of the Guide in that the Respondent failed to respond promptly and meaningfully to enquiries from the Law Society.

9th Complaint
Breaches of the Section 8AA of the LPO and Rule 2(a) and (d) of the SPR in that the Respondent failed to comply with a notice of inspection issued by the Law Society on 26 March 2010.

10th Complaint
The common law offence of misconduct on account of the facts detailed in the above complaints. The common law offence of misconduct includes any conduct which is not dealt with by any specific rule but is nonetheless improper.

After consideration of the mitigation submitted by the Respondent, the Tribunal ordered that:-

  1. The Respondent be censured for all the complaints.
  2. In regard to the 1st Complaint, the Respondent is fined HK$300,000. This sum will be reduced to HK$150,000 provided the Respondent satisfies the Tribunal that full payment to his client mentioned in the 1st Complaint has been made within 10 days.
  3. In regard to the 2nd and 3rd Complaints, the Respondent is fined a total amount of HK$100,000 for both complaints.
  4. In regard to the 4th Complaint, the Respondent is fined HK$75,000.
  5. In regard to the 5th and 6th Complaints, the Respondent is fined a total sum of HK$160,000. This sum will be reduced to HK$100,000 provided he satisfies the Tribunal that he has made full payment to the Senior Counsel within 10 days.
  6. In regard to the 7th Complaint, the Respondent is fined HK$100,000.
  7. In regard to the 8th Complaint, the Respondent is fined HK$100,000.
  8. In regard to the 9th Complaint, the Respondent is fined HK$150,000.
  9. In regard to the 10th Complaint, there will be no additional penalty.
  10. For a period of 12 months after the Respondent is issued a fresh Practising Certificate, if any, following the intervention by the Law Society on 4 January 2012 in the practice of the Respondent, the Respondent shall not practise as a sole-proprietor or partner of a solicitors’ firm but can only practise as an employed solicitor under the supervision of a solicitor who has been actively practised in Hong Kong for at least 10 years.
  11. The costs of these proceedings, including the costs of investigation of the Applicant, the costs of the Applicant and the Clerk to the Tribunal, be borne and paid by the Respondent on an indemnity basis, such costs to be taxed, if not agreed.


Mr. Geoffrey James Shaw of Messrs. Haley & Co. for the Applicant.

The Respondent in person.

Tribunal Members:
Mr. NG Man-kin, Chairman
Mr. Charles William Allen
Ms. Kai Shun Catherine Yen

Jurisdictions: