Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of Decision on Facts and Determination


Mark Alan Hopkinson

Delta, BC

Called to the bar: October 22, 2002

Ceased membership for non-payment of fees: January 1, 2020

Hearing date: February 10, 2020

Panel: Dean Lawton, QC (Chair), Lindsay LeBlanc and Lance Ollenberger

Decision issued: April 6, 2020 (2020 LSBC 17)

Counsel: Sarah Conroy for the Law Society; no one appearing for Mark Alan Hopkinson

FACTS

Mark Alan Hopkinson was retained in January 2016 to help a client conduct patent searches. He conducted the searches and advised the client of the outcome. After receiving her instructions, he filed a US Patent Application with the US Patent and Trademark Office. He notified her of the official filing receipt and said he would keep her informed on any developments on the file. They continued to communicate on trademark-related matters. He took further steps on the application in November 2016 and invoiced the client for services, which she paid.

In August 2017, Hopkinson received the Notice of Allowance from the US Patent and Trademark Office and was advised that an issue fee of $140 would be required or his application would be regarded as abandoned. He did not advise his client of the notice and did not submit the fee on her behalf. The application was deemed abandoned.

In January 2018, his client emailed Hopkinson to ask about the status of the application. The client did not receive a response, and she called a week later to leave a message. Hopkinson did not return her call. The client emailed again a month later requesting an update, and he did not respond to the email. For approximately three months, the client continued to try to contact Hopkinson, but he did not answer her calls or return her messages. The client contacted the US Patent and Trademark Office and was advised that the application was abandoned. She called Hopkinson to notify him and requested that he respond. He did not return her call.

In April 2018, his client’s colleague went to Hopkinson’s office on two or three occasions and discovered it was locked. The colleague finally was able to enter the office and leave a business card asking for a response. Hopkinson called the colleague back, who told him that the application had been abandoned and the client was trying to reach him to fix the issue. Hopkinson emailed the client and said he would prepare a reinstatement package for the application and he would “eat” the reinstatement fee of $400. He also advised he would get back to her the following Monday or Tuesday.

When she did not hear back from him the following Monday or Tuesday, his client emailed Hopkinson requesting an update and expressing her frustration and anxiety over the situation. He responded and said the reinstatement package was not completed and that he would not work on anything else until it was submitted. This was the last email his client received from Hopkinson, though she continued to call and email him.

Hopkinson did not reinstate the US Patent Application and did not report to his client he was not going to submit the reinstatement package. He did not advise her to obtain independent legal advice when he discovered the application was abandoned and did not advise her he was no longer acting on her behalf. The client filed a complaint against him with the Law Society in May 2018.

In June 2018, Hopkinson applied for non-practising membership. The Law Society sent him a letter advising that he must complete a final trust report and finalize other matters. He did not respond to the letter or comply with any of the conditions required. He did not respond to multiple voice messages and emails for approximately five months.

Hopkinson was suspended from the practice of law in January 2019 for failing to respond to the outstanding requests. He was advised to disable all online profiles. In February 2019, he was suspended from the practice of law for failing to submit his final trust report. This was communicated to him by letter, which asked him to contact the manager of the Law Society’s custodianships department. He did not respond to this request, and he has not completed the outstanding requirements. Further communication was sent to him in February.

Hopkinson emailed the Law Society in February 2019 and advised his web page “Hopkinson.ca” would be immediately removed. The custodianships department wrote to him in March regarding his suspension and seeking information about his law practice. Hopkinson did not reply. He continued to operate a website at the domain name www.coastpatent.com and continued to hold himself out as a lawyer until mid-September 2019.

DETERMINATION

The hearing panel found Hopkinson engaged in a pattern of non-communication with the client, the delay was inordinate and inexcusable and caused harm to his client.  He failed in providing legal services in a conscientious and diligent manner and to the manner required of a competent lawyer.  He was in neglect of his duty to notify and properly advise the client in connection with his errors.

The panel also found that Hopkinson persistently failed to respond to Law Society communications and held himself out as entitled to practise law while suspended.

The panel found that Hopkinson’s conduct was a marked departure from the standard expected of lawyers and constitutes professional misconduct.

2020 LSBC 17 Decision on Facts and Determination