Trust Between A Lawyer And A Client Is Paramount

By Pace Law | April 22, 2013

 

Toronto Personal Injury Lawyer Albert Conforzi: A recent negative news story about the legal profession involves a lawyer who is accused of misappropriating trust funds. From the Toronto Star:

An Ontario lawyer who faced a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday says he will defend the accusations that he misappropriated about $500,000 from clients and his own law firm before moving to Paris.

Luc Barrick, an Ottawa lawyer who once co-hosted a local radio show, is accused by the Law Society of Upper Canada of misappropriating the money before moving to France, where he says he can get the best care for his health problems.

The allegations (which are just that) involve misapplying funds from various client matters to his own personal uses, including a condo purchase. Barrick is also accused of taking an initial retainer from a client and failing to perform any work.

All lawyer jokes aside, it is my experience that the lawyer/client trust position is earnestly honoured by lawyers.

In my view, the real lesson for the public is the fact that the Law Society of Upper Canada takes an allegation regarding trust accounts very seriously. There can be no mingling of trust funds amongst different matters for different clients (robbing Peter to pay Paul), nor can there be any mingling of trust funds with general operating accounts. There can also be no use of trust funds for a lawyer’s personal use – like buying a condo.

As lawyers, we are placed in a position of trust by our clients. All lawyer jokes aside, it is my experience that the lawyer/client trust position is earnestly honoured by lawyers.

The comfort for our clients is the knowledge that any breach of that trust is a professional discipline matter. If a lawyer is found to have breached their duties, they will be dealt with surely and swiftly by the Law Society. A compensation fund also exists to assist the clients who are out of pocket as a result of such misconduct.

Albert Conforzi is a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm in Toronto. His posts generally appear on Mondays.