Cautionary tale of a lawyer targetted for fraud by a paralegal of the same cultural background
In his article “Manage Malpractice Risk by Recognizing Cultural Diversity“, Lorne Shelson (Litigation Director & Counsel in the Specialty Claims Department at LAWPRO) gives five ‘culturally-based’ claims scenarios loosely based on real LAWPRO claims.
Here is one scenario:
A lawyer was both a member of a racialized community and first licensed as a lawyer in her late 50s. She had difficulty securing employment with a law firm, and so established herself as a sole practitioner offering real estate services. The lawyer, who had immigrated to Canada, assumed due to the openness of Canadian society, that people living in Canada were trustworthy. She further assumed that real estate law in Canada was the same as in her country of origin, where property rights were unrestricted and mortgage lenders extended funds at their own risk.
The lawyer approached a paralegal acquaintance who shared her cultural and religious background. The paralegal appeared to the lawyer to be a devout and caring person, and invited the lawyer to family gatherings. Because of their shared background and faith, the lawyer unquestioningly trusted the paralegal and began working for her.
The paralegal provided the lawyer with an office and ‘referred’ real estate files to the lawyer. However, the paralegal and her staff processed all of the documentation, including effecting registrations using the lawyer’s electronic land registration account and disk. The transactions turned out to be fraudulent. The lawyer was subjected to claims at the instance of the various mortgage lenders. She was ultimately compelled to resign as a licensee, having allowed herself to be duped by the paralegal.
This article appeared in the September 2014 “The Changing Face of the Profession” issue of LAWPRO Magazine. All past LAWPRO Magazine articles can be found at