Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

 

Citation issued: May 24, 2019

Peter Darren Steven Hart

Citations are authorized by the Law Society of BC's Discipline Committee and list allegations against a lawyer that will be considered at a discipline hearing. Please note that allegations in a citation are unproven until a discipline hearing panel has determined their validity.

Nature of conduct to be inquired into:

1.  In or between approximately March 2013 and October 2013, in the course of representing JQ (the “Client”) in a family law matter, you charged the Client fees of approximately $1,020,000 plus taxes and disbursements, which were unfair and unreasonable, contrary to one or more of rule 3.6-1 and commentary [1] of rule 3.6-2 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia and Rule 8-1 of the Law Society Rules.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct, or a breach of the Act or rules, pursuant to s. 38(4) of the Legal Profession Act.

2.  In or between approximately March 2013 and November 2014, in the course of representing JQ (the “Client”) in a family law matter, you failed to serve the Client in a timely, conscientious, diligent, and efficient manner so as to provide a quality of service at least equal to that which would be expected of a competent lawyer in a similar situation, contrary to rule 3.2-1 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia, and in particular by doing some or all of the following:

(a)  failing to take adequate notes or otherwise document your communications with the Client;

(b)  failing to ensure that all instructions from the Client were in writing or confirmed in writing;

(c)  failing to follow the Client’s instructions to prioritize an application for interim spousal support;

(d)  failing to bring an application for interim spousal support at any time, and in any case, prior to the Client agreeing to convert her retainer to a contingent fee agreement;

(e)  taking actions that were either contrary to the Client’s instructions or taken without consultation with the Client, or both, including doing some or all of the following:

(i)  adjourning the application for interim spousal support scheduled for approximately August 15, 2013; and 

(ii)  making settlement proposals to opposing counsel on some or all of the following approximate dates: August 26, 2013, September 2, 2013 and September 23, 2013;

(f)  failing to adequately communicate with the Client, to ensure that she had the information necessary to make fully informed decisions and to provide instructions, including:

(i)  failing to advise the Client that opposing counsel insisted on the Client’s in-person appearance at mediation;

(ii)  failing to respond to the Client’s comments and questions on approximately October 1, 2013 in relation to several draft documents you intended to serve on opposing counsel;

(iii)  failing to advise the Client that the mediation scheduled for October 2, 2013 had been cancelled and did not occur;

(iv)  failing to inform the Client of settlement proposals you had made on her behalf, or to inform her when her instructions for settlement were inconsistent with the proposals you had made;

(v)  failing to provide the Client with a copy of the draft memorandum of understanding, entered into on or about October 2-3, 2013, for her review, before you signed it, or promptly after you had signed it; and

(vi)  failing to correct the Client’s belief that despite the settlement and divorce order being completed, she was able to apply for spousal support in the future;

(g)  requesting that the Client agree to convert her retainer from hourly rate billing to a contingent fee agreement without doing one or more of the following:

(i)  taking all reasonable steps to ensure that the Client’s decision in that regard was fully informed;

(ii)  producing or maintaining a proper documentary record of the advice given, analysis provided, discussions that took place, and instructions from the Client;

(iii)  taking steps to ensure that the Client knew she ought to obtain independent legal advice in respect of the proposed contingent fee agreement;

(iv)  meeting with the Client face-to-face prior to the Court approval of the contingent fee agreement;

(v)  providing comprehensive written advice to the Client; and

(vi)  obtaining an objective estimate of the legal fees and disbursements you expected to incur on the Client’s file.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct pursuant to s. 38(4) of the Legal Profession Act.

3.  In or between approximately March 2013 and November 2014, in the course of representing JQ (the “Client”) in a family law matter, you failed to act with honesty, candour and integrity, contrary to one or more of rules 2.2-1 and 3.2-2 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia, and in particular by doing some or all of the following:

(a)  misleading the Client into believing that her settlement could be valued at over $8 million in the future, when you had no reasonable basis upon which to make such an assertion;

(b)  knowingly taking actions and making settlement proposals that were contrary to the Client’s instructions, without advising her that you had done so;

(c)  advising opposing counsel that you had been “instructed to cancel the mediation” when you knew that these were not your instructions; and

(d)  misleading the Client into believing that you would and could pursue spousal support on her behalf after the settlement and divorce order completed, and failing to correct these misrepresentations for approximately one-year following the settlement.

This conduct constitutes professional misconduct pursuant to s. 38(4) of the Legal Profession Act.