June 29, 2023

New Westminster lawyer Michael James Edwards has been suspended for two months and ordered to pay $8,676 in costs for professional misconduct.

The hearing panel found that Edwards committed professional misconduct when he improperly withdrew $2,354 in client trust funds and failed to ensure compliance with numerous trust accounting rules for electronic transfers of funds. He also filed a misleading trust report to the Law Society, and failed to prepare monthly trust reconciliations, which contributed to a $30,000 trust shortage. Edwards also failed to remit payroll deductions to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) over the course of four years, resulting in over $70,000 in arrears.

The hearing panel took into consideration his professional conduct record, his volunteer experience and his provision of affordable legal services to his community. The panel found that while no actual harm was done to any clients, the misconduct is serious and needs to be strongly rebuked.

Edwards acknowledged his misconduct and has made significant changes to the operations at his firm and has retained accounting assistance. He has since paid the arrears to the CRA from his personal savings.

In addition to the two-month suspension, Edwards was ordered to retain an accountant to review his bookkeeping on a quarterly basis and a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) to audit his accounting records on a semi-annual basis for two years following his suspension. 

The hearing decision can be found here.