Below is a great way to get in trouble as a lawyer. I’ve noticed a negative trend in the legal industry. Many lawyers are terrified of the law society, and they want to protect themselves at the expense of their clients. Knowing the law society as I do, their main concern is the protection of clients. They would never want a lawyer to do something at the expense of a client.
I write these articles because I want to explain the issues with law firms. Nothing will improve if we don’t talk about it. If you are a lawyer and you want to share stories with me, that I can write about on this blog, please reach out to me on my Linkedin. There are high rates of mental health problems in the law industry, and it’s because no one talks about the issues. Therefore, things don’t get better.
I want to improve the environment for clients and lawyers. I hope you will share this article or at least send it to a few lawyers you know.
Below is a cautionary tale that happened at another law firm. I have good relationships with other law firms, and they said I could share the story, but change all the details. None of the names or details in the story are correct.
Lawyers Must Use Technology
While some lawyers are sitting around all day, other lawyers are embracing new technology and work environments. They are making good money and making their clients happy.
The reason I share it is so lawyers can think about who lawyers work for and who pays their bills.
Is it the law society? Do they work for themselves? No.
They work for the clients. If the legal industry cannot help clients, then the legal industry needs to change. Old school lawyers are having a hard time getting work.
Here is a good way to get in trouble as a lawyer.
Mr. Smith was a lawyer in British Columbia and was assigned to work on a small claims file for his law firm, ABC Law. The file was for the company, CVB Inc.
After hearing of another law firm that got into trouble with the law society, Mr. Smith decided for himself that the law firm was not compliant with the law society, and broke his contract with the law firm and terminated his representation with CVB Inc.
From my experience, these kinds of situations are common. The problem is that Mr. Smith did not work for the law society and it wasn’t his place to decide what law society rules are and how to enforce them.
The settlement date was coming up soon and Mr. Smith was to appear and represent CVB Inc and well as to serve the respondent prior to the settlement date.
Get In Trouble As A Lawyer
CVB Inc received a strange email from Mr. Smith, saying he received a call from the law society that said he had to terminate his relationship with CVB Inc due to a conflict of interest.
CVB Inc called Mr. Smith right away, and was told the law society had called Mr. Smith, said there was a conflict of interest, and told him he could not discuss the conflict with CVB Inc.
This was the first CVB Inc had heard of any issue, or the law society, so CVB Inc called the law society (LS) to find out what was going on.
The Law Society
The person who answered at the LS was unable to find someone that called Mr. Smith. She asked CVB Inc to send an email to the LS instead. CVB Inc sent the following to the law society email:
” After a phone call with the lawyer representing me, he said the law society called him and said he cannot act for me. I would like more information about the conflict and what I should do. I just phoned the law society and they asked me to send an email. My court date is coming up in a few weeks and I am now unrepresented. I am very concerned.”
Don’t get information about the law society from other lawyers, get it from the law society themselves. You can watch the video below to learn more.
Further Conversations With Mr. Smith
Steve from the law society called CVB Inc confirming that the law society did not call Mr. Smith and there was no file open. Further, the law society would not have banned Mr. Smith from explaining a conflict of interest. He suggested CVB Inc file a complaint against the lawyer since they was lied to.
CVB Inc called Mr. Smith again, and got a completely different story. Mr. Smith explained he did not know if it was the law society that called him, as it was an unknown number. The “caller” has threatened him. A great way to get in trouble as a lawyer is to lie to your client.
The Lawyer Admitted They Lied
Upon further discussion, Mr. Smith admitted the law society did not call him. He had lied about it, and instead he had called his aunt and a practice advisor and shared the opposing parties’ arguments. Sharing information about a client’s case with his aunt was an obvious breach of his duty of confidentiality.
What had happened was Mr. Smith shared incorrect information about his law firm and the claimant with a practice advisor and his aunt, and the response he received back was negative. He had somehow decided his law firm was like the law firm getting in trouble. He had asked strange questions to the practice advisor, like “can non-lawyers fee split with lawyers” and “can you pay 40% referral fees.” The answer he received of course was no.
ABC Law had never done any of these things and had operated as a law firm for six years without any problems. The lawyer had worked themselves up into delusion.
No advance knowledge was given to the client that Mr. Smith wanted to share confidential client information to get feedback from his aunt. Even more shocking, Mr. Smith caused damage to his client based on what was happening at another firm. A litigation lawyer needs to be able to handle stress.
Further, no conflict was explained. But if there was a conflict between Mr. Smith, CVB Inc, and ABC Law, it should be been explored prior to Mr. Smith agreeing to act for CVB Inc. Conflict checks must always be done at the beginning. Instead, Mr. Smith withdrew right before the settlement conference, causing damage to the client.
Stay Out Of Trouble
Don’t get in trouble as a lawyer, take care of your client, and the law society will trust you. Lawyers need to stop sitting around and thinking about how to protect themselves, and help their clients instead.
*The views in this article are of Alistair Vigier and do not reflect ClearWay Law