An Ottawa lawyer who left for France while clients complained about missing funds says he’s still waiting for documents from the Law Society of Upper Canada he argues he needs “to show that there was no misconduct on my part” at his upcoming disciplinary hearing.
“I fully intend to defend these accusations, I fully intend to appear at the hearing, and I fully expect that the hearing will eventually show that there was no misconduct on my part,” Luc Barrick said in response to questions about new law society allegations in relation to misappropriated funds totalling almost $500,000.
“This matter is now going to a hearing and I have just made the request again today for those documents,” Barrick said in reference to his request for his files in advance of his April 17 hearing. “No answer so far from the law society.”
Barrick has been in the spotlight ever since he cleared out his office and moved to Paris one night in March 2011 while clients found themselves without a lawyer and complained about missing money. He said he left for medical reasons due to hemophilia. “My health is still very poor. I have made some improvements, but my condition is a hereditary one and so I can never really escape it,” he told Law Times last week.
“France has the best medical facilities in the world for my medical condition,” he added. “They are experts in hemophilia and this is why I am here.”
Past reports put the missing money at about $300,000. But a law society notice of application issued against him recently outlines $482,000 in allegedly misappropriated or misapplied funds.
The particulars of the application include more than $100,000 from the mixed trust account of Barrick Domey Tannis LLP that Barrick allegedly used to purchase a condo in his name and $58,000 from the same account “for his personal expenses.” The law society seized the condo in order to return some money to clients, but the sale yielded a profit of just $52,000.
Prior to closing the firm’s trust account with no money remaining, Barrick also allegedly misappropriated $200,000 that he was holding for two clients until the sale of their property; $70,000 from life insurance proceeds held in trust for the beneficiary; $25,000 from a matrimonial settlement; and $12,000 in retainers from various clients for which he didn’t provide any services.
There may be other clients left in the lurch as well. In 1716680 Ontario Inc. v. Michael Souccar, Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken set aside a default judgment after finding the “default was occasioned by the unprofessional and possibly criminal conduct of the defendant’s lawyer.”
The defendant had paid Barrick $4,000 to represent him in 2010. In 2011, Souccar “discovered that nothing had been filed in regard to his defence, he had been noted in default, and a default judgment had been signed on May 17, 2011,” wrote Aitken. “Subsequently, Souccar learned that Barrick had left the country, taking his clients’ money with him.”
It’s not just clients who are disgruntled. Meg Green, who was a first-year associate at Barrick Domey Tannis LLP, notes she had financial disagreements with him as well. “He was very controlling over the trusts,” she says. “I didn’t know when things were being billed out. Things could’ve been billed out and I wasn’t getting my share.”
According to Green, she and Barrick reached a settlement after she left the firm. “I went into negotiations with him after I left and agreed to a lump-sum payment which was less than what I was owed but I just really didn’t want to drag it through the court system,” she says.
“Hopefully, he faces justice at some point,” she adds.
“By my estimation, I put in roughly $20,000 in pro bono time trying to help his practice after he supposedly got sick and was supposedly dealing with that,” says Bruce La Rochelle, a lawyer who befriended Barrick before he left for France. He and Barrick became friends while acting as opposing counsel in a real estate case in 2010. “To me, he had a real keen mind and also a real intellectual interest in law and I
was very impressed,” says La Rochelle.
Besides Green and La Rochelle, Barrick left other disgruntled colleagues such as former law partner Grant Poulsen. “Basically, he stopped paying the rent and kept collecting the rent from lawyers and took off to a different office,” says Poulsen. “In my mind, he was just making bad decisions professionally and personally.”
Barrick appears to have enjoyed a successful law practice in Ottawa and noted in an e-mail to Law Times that he grew his law firm from one person to eight or nine lawyers in less than a decade. In 2008, meanwhile, he joined the Canada Pension Plan review tribunal. According to media relations staff at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, “Luc Barrick was a member of the CPP/OAS review tribunals between December 11, 2008, and December 10, 2011. He is not a member of the new Social Security Tribunal.”
Barrick was also cohost of Legal Talk, a segment on CHIN Radio in Ottawa.
While Barrick has emphasized his medical problems as the reason for leaving, Poulsen says he later learned his former colleague had opened a school in Paris with a female partner.
“I think it’s very interesting that somebody claims health problems and then does this,” says Poulsen.
While the LSUC has scheduled a hearing into Barrick’s disciplinary matter for April 17 at Osgoode Hall, he says he won’t be able to attend that day but has requested an adjournment while he continues to seek his files and documents.
For more, see "Lawyer's clients out of luck" and "Colleague gives missing lawyer benefit of doubt."