News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
21 Jul 2017
6:00 am

Law Society made to pay for ‘protecting’ the Bobroffs

Ilse de Lange

Graham’s wife approached the Bobroffs’ law firm to sue the Road Accident Fund after he suffered brain injuries in a car accident in 2006.

The long legal battle of car accident victim Matthew Graham and his wife, Jennifer, to bring former lawyers Ronald Bobroff and his son, Darren, to book for grossly overcharging them, has resulted in the High Court in Pretoria granting a punitive costs order against the pair and the Northern Provinces Law Society.

The Bobroffs fled to Australia last year – allegedly to avoid possible criminal charges – although they claimed it was because of threats of violence.

Graham’s wife approached the Bobroffs’ law firm to sue the Road Accident Fund after he suffered brain injuries in a car accident in 2006, but the couple in 2011 laid a complaint with the Northern Provinces Law Society after receiving only about R1.1 million of a R1.9 million settlement, with the rest going to the Bobroffs for fees.

When other instances of overreaching emerged and the Law Society dragged its heels in investigating the Bobroffs, the Grahams launched numerous applications and eventually obtained an order suspending them from practicing.

The Law Society resolved in March last year to apply for the Bobroffs to be struck off the roll, but only after the Grahams launched a similar application.

Judges Natvarlal Ranchod and Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen in December last year struck the pair off the roll, but only gave reasons for their ruling yesterday.

The judges in addition granted punitive costs orders against the Bobroffs and the Law Society in favour of the Grahams.

Judge Ranchod described the conduct of the Bobroffs as “egregious in the extreme, unprofessional, unworthy and dishonourable” and said apart from the serious over-reaching of their clients, they had orchestrated delays at every juncture and abused the processes of court with spurious appeals and applications.

He also sharply criticised the Law Society for not acting sooner against the Bobroffs, especially where the Grahams were clearly acting in the public interest.

The society’s investigation revealed numerous instances where the Bobroffs overcharged clients, allegedly misappropriated trust funds for themselves, charged clients with up to R18 000 for fictitious “disbursements” in respect of postage and petties, created accounts to avoid or reduce taxes and failed to keep proper accounting records.

Judge Ranchod said the Law Society’s inspectors had uncovered extensive and serious misconduct which showed that the pair were not fit and proper to practice as attorneys and that the public should be protected against them.

Judge Ranchod said given the extent to which the Law Society accommodated the Bobroffs, members of the public could be forgiven for thinking that the Law Society was there to “protect its own”, more especially given the fact that Ronald Bobroff was a past president of the Law Society. – ilsedl@citizen.co.za