March 06, 2023

A review board of the Law Society Tribunal has upheld the one-year suspension of lawyer Hong Guo and found that the hearing panel erred in not requiring her to enter into and comply with a practice supervision agreement before returning to practice.

In 2020, a hearing panel of the Law Society Tribunal found that Guo had committed professional misconduct by failing to comply with trust accounting rules. Guo also failed to properly supervise or delegate trust accounting responsibilities to her bookkeeper, including providing pre-signed blank trust cheques, which facilitated the bookkeeper’s theft of $7.5 million of her clients’ trust funds. Guo was also found to have misappropriated trust funds from some of her clients in order to replace funds that had been stolen from other clients’ trust accounts to complete pending real estate transactions.

In the hearing on disciplinary action, the panel found there were exceptional circumstances that justified ordering a one-year suspension instead of disbarment. The Law Society applied for a review of this decision and sought disbarment. The respondent lawyer also sought a review of the decision on disciplinary action, seeking a fine in place of the suspension.

The review board found the hearing panel was correct in ordering a suspension instead of disbarment, however added an order that Guo enter into a practice supervision agreement acceptable to the Practice Standards Committee. This requirement will remain in place and Guo must comply with the terms of the practice supervision agreement until relieved of the obligation by the Practice Standards Committee.

The full decision can be read here.