Tribunal found eight failures to serve clients, lawyer faced three misconduct hearings since 2016
An Ontario lawyer recently lost his appeal of a Law Society Tribunal order revoking his licence to practise law due to 17 findings of professional misconduct.
The tribunal found that Matys Rapoport had charged excessive and unreasonable fees on six occasions, failed to serve clients “to the standard of a competent lawyer” eight times, failed to hold information in strict confidence once, and communicated “in a manner that was neither courteous nor civil” twice. In addition to being permanently stripped of his licence to practise law, the law society has fined Rapoport $29,400.
He has been subject to three separate tribunal hearings since 2016. In the first two, Rapoport was suspended for four months, then two years, and ordered to pay a total of $44,400.
“You could put together a pretty good law school ethics course on pitfalls for lawyers based on this catalogue of breaches of the rules of professional conduct in these three decisions involving the same lawyer,” says Gavin MacKenzie, whose practice involves professional responsibility, liability, and discipline.
Gavin MacKenzie, MacKenzie Barristers
“It's certainly not uncommon for the law society to proceed on allegations of multiple breaches of the Rules of Professional Conduct. But it's very unusual for the same lawyer to be prosecuted for as many different breaches of the rules of professional conduct as Mr. Rapoport was alleged to have breached in this case.”
MacKenzie is the author of “Lawyers and Ethics: Professional Responsibility and Discipline,” now in its sixth edition from Thomson Reuters, and has served as an adjunct professor of legal ethics at Osgoode Hall Law School.
The tribunal’s finding that Rapoport had failed to guard a client’s privacy was the result of an incident where he worked on the client’s physical file in a hotel lobby. Rapoport initially told investigators that he may have shown sensitive photographs of his client’s autistic son to strangers who had inquired about what he was working on. He later denied this admission, but the hearing panel found the denial was not credible.
Among his eight findings of failure to competently serve clients was an instance in which he neglected to prepare a client for a four-way meeting with her spouse and her spouse’s lawyer. Another involved a failure to respond to inquiries about a financial statement and pension, and in another he had failed to submit pension materials for valuation.
Rapoport was found to have reached a spousal support agreement in one client’s case without the client’s instruction or approval. He had also filed deficient materials on behalf of four clients.
In 2021, Rapoport was suspended for several findings of misconduct that arose from legal service he rendered for his mother. First, he swore an affidavit of solicitor in his mother’s marriage contract, stating he had advised her on the contract and believed she was signing it voluntarily and in full awareness of its nature and consequences. But a few years later while acting as her continuing power of attorney, he swore a contradictory affidavit. In a court application against his late stepfather’s estate, in which he was requesting that the marriage contract be invalidated so his mother could receive equalization and spousal support statements, he said his mother did not understand the marriage contract and had signed it under duress.
When his stepfather died and his mother entered a nursing facility, Rapoport and his sister, acting as her powers of attorney, sold her home and split the proceeds. The judge handling the motion to invalidate the marriage contract ordered them to return the funds. The sister complied, but Rapoport did not have access to the money because he had bought a house.
The judge said that the pair had depleted their mother’s funds “for their own benefit” and failed to act in her best interests as fiduciaries, as required by the Substitute Decisions Act. The judge said it was “inconsistent and troubling” that they would sell the house and keep the proceeds while initiated a claim for equalization and dependent support.
The sale and fund dispersal put Rapoport and his sister in a conflict of interest and contravened his duty to act in his mother’s best interests, said the tribunal.
Rapoport’s conduct holds a lesson for lawyers to think carefully at the outset when asked to act on a matter, and consider whether they can professionally do so, says MacKenzie. Rapoport should have declined to act for his mother on the marriage contract because he should have foreseen that a dispute would arise down the road in which he would not be capable of offering objective, independent legal advice, he says.
MacKenzie was not counsel in any of Rapoport’s hearing but gave advice to one witness while that person was considering a complaint against him.