The Law Society of Namibia (LSN) took note of publicly distributed statements, at the end of last year, issued by the Group Deputy CEO of Trustco, Mr. QZ van Rooyen, in which he made certain allegations implying that members of the legal profession were acting unethically, which according to him is the reason why Trustco do not reimburse certain legal practitioners.
The statement issued by him stated inter alia, “Insurance flushed out those lawyers trying to game their claim, and established stronger relationships with ethical lawyers, improving our service by a magnitude”. A further media report stated, “The company declared a dispute on the accounts of some lawyers after the fees they charged exceeded the structure agreed with Trustco Insurance; the company was invoiced for work not done by the lawyers; some attorneys claimed payments that were not due and payable, and the company was invoiced by lawyers before the finalisation of specific phases of cases in which they received instructions to represent Legal Shield clients, Trustco Insurance said in its statement”.
The LSN is tasked, amongst others, with upholding the standards of the legal profession and protecting the image of the legal profession in general. The LSN is also responsible to protect the public against unethical conduct by members of the legal profession.
As such, the LSN is obliged to act against any alleged unethical conduct by its members. On this premise, the Council of the Law Society, at its meeting held on 12 December 2017, considered the statements made by Mr. Van Rooyen and resolved that he be requested to provide evidence of such alleged misconduct to the LSN for further investigation. Council further resolved that if Trustco should fail to submit evidence of alleged unethical conduct, the LSN shall issue a press statement in response to the allegations made by Mr. Van Rooyen / Trustco and inform the public that no official complaints have been received from Trustco in this regard.
The LSN, on two occasions, requested such evidence in writing, via email and post. During February 2018, Trustco informed the LSN that these letters were never received, and same was again forwarded. Trustco has still not provided the LSN with a reply, or evidence against any legal practitioners for alleged misconduct.
The LSN has subsequently been informed that some matters have been postponed in the High Court for reason of Trustco’s failure to pay the legal practitioners involved. The LSN has further been informed that several firms are in the process of taking further legal action against Trustco, on behalf of their clients (i.e. Legal Shield policy holders) as well as in their own cause.
As the LSN received a complaint that Trustco’s actions are prejudicial to the clients of legal professionals (which complaint was also submitted to NAMFISA), the LSN will continue to monitor the situation.