Complaints, Lawyer Discipline and Public Hearings

Summary of the decision of the hearing panel on facts and determination

Desmond Greg Friedland

Vancouver, BC

Called to the bar: December 12, 1997

Hearing date: January 28, 2021

Panel: Thomas L. Spraggs, chair, Linda Berg and John D. Waddell, QC

Decision issued: April 8, 2021 (2021 LSBC 13)

Counsel: Kathleen M. Bradley for the Law Society; Desmond Greg Friedland on his own behalf


Facts

A compliance audit of Desmond Greg Friedland’ s practice in 2018 revealed numerous exceptions, some of which were issues previously identified in a 2012 compliance audit.

Friedland received $825 from an immigration client for anticipated disbursements that were never incurred. Instead of refunding the $825 to his client, he improperly withdrew the funds as payment for legal fees and deposited them to his general account. In taking the funds when he was not entitled to do so, Friedland committed misappropriation.

In 14 client matters for periods of time ranging from four months to five years, Friedland maintained more than $300 of his own funds in his pooled trust account because he failed to withdraw funds from trust in payment of his fees as soon as practicable, in breach of the rules.

The audit also revealed approximately 13 unknown client deposits totalling $2,768.60 in what Friedland described as “ the float account.” Friedland had a practice of providing his trust account information to anyone wishing to pay him by direct deposit, which resulted in anonymous deposits to his trust account that could not be matched to specific clients. In doing so, Friedland breached the accounting rules by failing to:

  • identify and record the source of funds received into his pooled trust account;
  • identify and record the identity of the client on whose behalf trust funds were received into his pooled trust account;
  • maintain a trust ledger, or other suitable system, showing separately for each client on whose behalf trust funds had been received, all trust funds received and disbursed and the unexpended balance; and
  • maintain a detailed monthly listing to support his monthly trust reconciliation that showed the unexpended balance of trust funds held for each client and that identified each client for whom trust funds were held.

There were also 16 inactive trust balances totalling almost $9,000.

The problematic aspects of Friedland’ s accounting practices were previously brought to his attention following a 2012 compliance audit. At that time, the Trust Assurance department found that Friedland was not complying with numerous trust accounting rules. He was ordered to attend a conduct review, and the conduct review subcommittee discussed his failure to prepare monthly trust reconciliations, failure to correct trust shortages and failure to provide an accurate trust report.

Determination

The panel had to consider whether Friedland’ s admitted conduct amounted to professional misconduct or a breach of the Act or Rules. The panel stated that his explanations for long-standing non-compliance do not excuse or relieve him of his responsibility to comply fully with the rules governing the operation of a trust account; rather, they highlight the substantial degree to which he is non-compliant and misguided about how to correctly operate his accounting.

The panel found that each of the three allegations in the citation, and admitted by Friedland, is a marked departure from the standard that the Law Society expects of lawyers and constitutes professional misconduct.

 

2021 LSBC 13 Decision on Facts and Determination