Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Disciplinary Action


Jeffrey Stephen Lowe

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: September 13, 1983

Discipline hearing: July 9, 2019

Panel: Michelle D. Stanford, QC (chair); Nan Bennett; Bruce LeRose, QC

Decision issued: October 8, 2019 (2019 LSBC 37)

Counsel: Kathleen Bradley for the Law Society; Henry C. Wood, QC, for Jeffrey Stephen Lowe

BACKGROUND

The hearing panel found that, over a period of seven years, Jeffrey Stephen Lowe had misappropriated $9,107.65 received from 43 clients as pre-billed estimated disbursements, by directly depositing the funds upon receipt into his general account and subsequently reclassifying the funds as “disbursement revenue” for “administrative convenience.” The panel also found Lowe had committed professional misconduct by failing to deposit $74,710.61 into a pooled trust account and failing to prepare and deliver to his clients bills that contained detailed statements of the amounts of disbursements actually incurred.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel considered that Lowe repeatedly failed to adhere to Law Society trust accounting rules on multiple occasions over approximately seven years. Any unauthorized use of client trust funds amounts to misappropriation, and misappropriation is the worst type of conduct a lawyer can engage in. Whether misappropriation is intentional or not, public confidence in the integrity of the profession is irreparably harmed if lawyers are not held accountable for taking client funds.

Historically, absent rare and extraordinary mitigating factors, disbarment has been the appropriate disciplinary action for repeated misappropriation of client trust funds. However, the panel took into consideration that there was no dishonest intent in the misappropriation, Lowe had no prior professional conduct record, and he took steps to correct his accounting practices once his attention was drawn to the impropriety of his conduct by a Law Society investigation.

The panel ordered that Lowe:

  • be suspended from the practice of law for five months commencing November 1, 2019; and
  • pay costs of $12,338.84.

2019 LSBC 37 Decision on Disciplinary Action

2019 LSBC 10 Decision on Facts and Determination