Brisbane lawyer gets suspended

A DISGRACED former high-flying Brisbane lawyer has been spared a stint in jail for defrauding his trust account of $826,000.

Former Quinn and Scattini managing partner Michael Quinn celebrated his freedom at lunchtime today with a glass of red wine.

But the celebration was bittersweet, as today also marked the day the 64-year-old was to be officially bankrupted.

He pleaded guilty to one count of fraud related to transferring funds from his trust account to his general account on 23 occasions between January 20 and May 31, 2011.

The money should have been paid to the Office of State Revenue for stamp duty.

The court was told Mr Quinn admitted defrauding the account because he was trying to keep his law firm afloat when he believed it was unviable.

Justice Shanahan said Mr Quinn was guilty of a similar fraud in 2001, although he was not criminally prosecuted.

His practising certificate was suspended for six months, and he was ordered to get psychiatric treatment.

Mr Quinn had been keeping the firm afloat by selling off his personal portfolio of about 12 properties, the court heard.

He was a lawyer for 37 years until June 2011 and was officially struck off as a solicitor in December 2012. His firm had 80 staff.

Mr Quinn’s barrister Simon Lewis said Quinn and Scattini had been hit by a “perfect storm” of bad luck, having his two equity partners in the firm leaving in 2010 and a downturn in legal business after the global financial crisis.

Mr Quinn was the sole equity partner in the firm after his partners left.

One of his former colleagues, Fisher Dore solicitor Shane Elliott, gave a character reference to the court supporting Mr Quinn.

There are strict rules governing how lawyers can use their trust accounts. State Governor and former chief justice Paul de Jersey has described trust account monies as “sacrosanct”.

Mr Quinn has no association with the current practice of Quinn and Scattini Lawyers.