A solicitor faced being driven to bankruptcy when a Law Society disciplinary tribunal 'went off the rails' and ordered him to pay a fine and legal costs totalling more than $570,000, a court heard yesterday. The law firm boss, who has not been identified, yesterday had the fine and costs slashed on appeal. He had admitted professional misconduct in relation to a dispute over $4,390. He agreed he had wrongly held on to title deeds belonging to a client while demanding the outstanding sum be paid and overcharging about $700. However, when the solicitor went before the tribunal he was fined $250,000 and ordered to pay costs estimated at $322,000. His barrister, Philip Dykes SC, described the penalty as crushing. 'The court may take the view that it does not want to drive the solicitor into bankruptcy,' he said. The tribunal had made terrible mistakes and 'because they have gone off the rails, the entire order needs to be revisited', he said. Mr Justice Gerald Godfrey said: 'The tribunal got very hot under the collar about this particular case and perhaps lost their cool.' The Court of Appeal slashed the $250,000 fine to $50,000 and ordered the solicitor to pay only one-third of the costs. It upheld the tribunal's decision to censure the lawyer. But an order that he attend an ethics course once a year for three years will not stand. Nigel Kat, for the Law Society, accepted that $50,000 would be an appropriate fine, but had argued that the costs order should not be interfered with. The court heard the lawyer had allowed a feud with his brother, who had previously dealt with the client, to affect his judgment.