Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision of the Hearing Panel


Susan Yon Soo Kim

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: August 31, 2000

Ceased practising (standard undertaking): December 5, 2018

Hearing date: July 23, 2019

Panel: Jamie Maclaren, QC, chair; Gavin Hume, QC; R.J. (Bob) Smith

Decision issued: December 4, 2019 (2019 LSBC 43)

Counsel: Jaia Rai for the Law Society; Jeffrey P. Scouten for Susan Yon Soo Kim

FACTS

A client retained Susan Yon Soo Kim in a family matter that had been approved for legal aid. In the retainer agreement, Kim specified that the client would “pay the difference that legal aid is not able to cover of my hourly rate.” Kim made one request to the Legal Services Society for payment of an expedited transcript of a hearing. That request was denied because Kim did not properly submit her payment request. Kim subsequently told the client that the legal aid system makes it difficult to receive payment from LSS first and then bill the client for the remaining balance, so Kim would therefore bill the client first, then “allow legal aid payments to reduce your legal fees, once received.” Kim repeatedly told the client she would seek partial payment from LSS for fees and disbursements, although she never sought payment from LSS, beyond the denied request for reimbursement of transcript costs.

After receiving several account statements and requests for payment from Kim, the client contacted LSS and was told that Kim had not sought payment for any of her fees, and that it was illegal for Kim “to charge both sides.” The client subsequently requested a termination of the retainer and transfer of his file to a new lawyer. Kim continued to seek payment from the client. LSS told Kim that if she reimbursed the client for fee payments he had made to date, Kim could then bill LSS for the services rendered. Kim chose not to reimburse the client and sought payment of an additional $30,000 from the client. The client declined to pay any part of the balance and Kim took no further steps to collect the balance.

Representing a different client in a different family matter, Kim prepared an affidavit to be sworn by the client. She commissioned the affidavit in the usual prescribed manner, with a duly signed jurat and signature page. The client subsequently requested a revision to the affidavit. Kim prepared a revised version, which she sent to the client by email. The client responded by email that the revision “looks good.” Kim appended the originally signed jurat and signature page to the revised version, and filed the revised affidavit with the court.

DETERMINATION

Kim admitted to misleading a client and altering an affidavit after it had been sworn and that both actions constitute professional misconduct.

The panel found that Kim committed professional misconduct as admitted. It concluded that misleading the client displayed a serious lack of integrity and had negative consequences for the client, who felt it necessary to retain new counsel.

It also found that Kim failed to act with integrity by altering the sworn affidavit and then filing it and relying on it in court. This conduct compromised the integrity of the court system and brought the integrity of the profession into disrepute.

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

The panel ordered that Kim:

  1. be suspended for one month commencing January 1, 2020; and
  2. pay costs of $7,500.

2019 LSBC 43 Decision of the Hearing Panel