A court has ruled that a Kelowna lawyer committed professional misconduct.
The decision was released on March 4, 2022 by the Law Society of British Columbia’s Court Hearings Division following allegations against Paule Fiona Seeger, now Paule Moore.
In November 2020, the Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) issued a citation against Seeger for allegedly withdrawing client funds from a trust account dozens of times over several years for services that were not provided, and in violation of rules relating to such withdrawals.
Seeger (Moore) moved to Kelowna in 2010 and his main area of practice was family law. She closed her practice in December 2019 and has been working in a legal services firm since March 2020.
The investigation began after an accountant hired by the lawyer filed a complaint with the LSBC in September 2018, alleging financial irregularities.
Among the allegations, Seeger was “always” making transfers from a trust account to a general account to cover company payroll expenses, and that while she was abroad on vacation in July 2018, Seeger left a packet of 30-40 signed, but otherwise blank, trust checks for the accountant to use in her absence. The employee also reported that he was concerned that a client had been billed for hearing dates that had not yet taken place.
A forensic investigation revealed a number of issues.
The subpoena issued in November alleged that Seeger improperly misappropriated or withdrew some or all of the $1,400 in trust funds held in a client’s account when she had no right to do so. She admitted misappropriation in connection with this incident and the court accepted this admission.
Other irregularities included misappropriation or improper withdrawal of funds from her firm’s trust account when she had rendered no legal services or legal services sufficient to justify the withdrawals. She admitted to “pre-billing” clients for services that had not yet been performed due to financial pressures.
The Law Society has identified several breaches of its code of ethics, including rules governing the withdrawal of trust funds, the safeguarding of records, and the duty to clients, the public and other members of the profession to act with honor and integrity. .
The Tribunal accepted all of the points set out in the citation and found that Seeger was guilty of professional misconduct.
A penalty has yet to be determined.