Saturday, June 18, 2016

Attorney Voluntarily Hands In Bar Ticket After Admitting To Allegations Of, Among Other Things, Pocketing Advanced Unearned Retainer Fees, Failing To Perform Services; Decision Pending As To How Much To Tap Into Reimbursement Fund To Cover Victimized Clients' Claims

On Prince Edward Island, Canada, CBC News reports:
  • Well-known Charlottetown lawyer Mitchell MacLeod has resigned after admitting to a finding of unprofessional conduct by The Law Society of P.E.I. The resignation was part of a settlement agreement MacLeod signed under the Society's discipline process.

    The law society regulates and disciplines Island lawyers, of whom there are currently 240 practicing.
    ***
    According to the settlement agreement MacLeod advised the society his alcoholism was affecting his ability to practice law.

    The society [] appointed a receiver to manage MacLeod's files and accounts.

    That person found further problems, noting in a report to the society in May 2015 what he called "unearned retainers" — where MacLeod had accepted retainers from clients without doing much on their files.

    The society investigated and charged MacLeod with unprofessional conduct.

    In April, as part of the settlement agreement, the society accepted MacLeod's resignation after he admitted to the allegations against him.

    Proceedings cost $75K

    MacLeod also agreed to pay $75,000 to cover the costs of the proceedings. He's not allowed to re-apply for membership with the Law Society for seven years.

    Susan Robinson, executive director of the society, told CBC [] she is in the process of reviewing about 10 claims from former clients over their retainers. She estimates the claims total between $10,000 and $20,000 and date back to 2013.

    "The lack of paperwork on both sides is a challenge," said Robinson. She has to review what paperwork exists in MacLeod's files and communicate with the former clients to determine how much work MacLeod did compared to the retainers clients paid him, she said.

    There is no money left in MacLeod's business account to pay out any claims, Robinson added.

    Law Society may pick up tab

    Any payments will come from the Law Society's Reimbursement Fund,(1) to which each member contributes $50 a year to provide for situations like this.

    Robinson's recommendations regarding payment will go to the general membership for a vote June 25.
For the story, see P.E.I. lawyer Mitchell MacLeod resigns, admits unprofessional conduct.
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(1) When a lawyer licensed on Prince Edward Island, Canada has been found guilty of dishonesty or fraud and caused his or her client(s) to suffer a financial loss, the Council of the Law Society of Prince Edward Island may approve a payment from its Compensation Fund, which is a discretionary fund provided through a fee paid by lawyers as part of their Law Society dues each year. An application for compensation can only be considered after the Discipline Committee hearing has taken place.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in the U.S. and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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