Monday 13 May 2019


During my years in the practice of law, I met dishonest lawyers who ripped off their clients when it came to billing their clients for their  services. I am going to tell you of a Toronto lawyer whom I didn`t meet but an unfortunate woman had the misfortune of having that lawyer representing her. 

A Toronto judge has drastically reduced the 92-year-old woman’s six-figure legal bill after the judge realized  that her lawyer was unable to explain how he reached the amount he claimed as his bill.  Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan reduced the client`s legal bill to $26,000.

The judge said, “None of the respondent’s ( lawyer`s)  figures are credible; he was obviously making it all up as he went along,” This was what Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan wrote in his July decision about the fee that the woman`s lawyer Lawrence Sax charged 92-yearold Eileen Newell.

The judge also chastised the hearings officer at the Toronto assessment office, who had originally adjudicated the dispute over the legal bill, finding she demonstrated “inexplicable animus”         ( bad feelings ) toward Newell.

With Morgan’s decision, Newell saw the $165,000 fee — which worked out to about $2,200 an hour for what her lawyer claimed was 75 hours of work handling the sale of a commercial building — cut down to just over $26,000 all told.

Newell had first taken her case against Sax to the assessment office, which handles disputes between lawyers and clients over their legal bills. Morgan was critical of the handling of Newell’s file by assessment officer Angelique Palmer.

“The assessment officer states candidly that ‘the solicitor determined what his fees should be based on criteria that could not be demonstrated or explained to the court,’” Morgan wrote.
“Despite the shortcomings of Sax’s account and of his evidence in support of it, the assessment officer upheld the account as fully payable.

“While it is hard to fathom how this could occur, the assessment officer’s reasons do give some insight. ”Palmer had noted in her decision that Newell, who was 91 at the time her bill was being assessed, did not attend the assessment hearing, although she was represented by a lawyer throughout the proceedings.

Despite the fact that the applicant’s (client) non-attendance caused no delay in the proceeding, the assessment officer seems to have taken umbrage at the fact that the applicant was not present.

“In fact, she (assessment officer) devoted four paragraphs in her reasons for decision to a discussion of the ‘failure of the client to appear at the hearing,’” Morgan wrote.

“In the course of these paragraphs, the assessment officer was highly critical of the applicant. Counsel for the applicant submits that she exhibited what can only be described as an inexplicable animus toward the applicant.

“From a reading of the assessment officer’s reasons for decision, I am compelled to agree.”

Morgan said Palmer “admonished” Newell’s lawyer at the assessment hearing for not submitting a doctor’s note for why she could not attend.

“In doing so, she effectively treated the applicant like a child in school whose teacher is skeptical that she really stayed home with a cold,” Morgan wrote.

“The assessment officer then stated that she was drawing an adverse inference from the applicant’s non-attendance the ‘adverse’ nature of the inference apparently being that a 91 year-old litigant sending a lawyer to represent her rather than personally sitting through a litigious proceeding could only be explained by the 91-year-old having something to hide.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General declined to comment on Palmer’s behalf. Why? was the government embarrassed?

At the assessment hearing, Palmer did reduce by 20 per cent Sax’s overall bill of $187,000, which included fees, taxes and disbursements, noting a “deficiency in the degree of responsibility to the client.”

Palmer had found the lawyer should have kept a record of the actual time spent working on Newell’s case, and should not have transferred the fees from the proceeds of the sale of the commercial building without first getting Newell’s authorization.

Newell declined to comment to the Star through her lawyer, Robert Tanner, who represented her at the assessment hearing and in the case before Morgan.

Sax, who was called to the bar in 1957, intends to appeal, his lawyer David Sloan said. Yea. Good luck on that appeal.

Regarding Sax billing Newell for 75 hours of work, Morgan found there was “clear evidence in the record of false and extravagant time estimates and time that is attributable to other old files.”

He said Sax had also admitted during testimony that he included unbillable tasks, such as looking for files in his storage system. Morgan reduced the number of hours to 50.

He also set Sax’s rate at $450 an hour, noting that Sax had testified at one point that his rate was $650 an hour, and then at another point said it was $850 an hour.

He also took issue with Palmer limiting cross-examination of Sax to only questions that were in direct response to what Sax raised in his testimony.

“That, of course, is not the law, and effectively cut off applicant’s counsel from a large part of what he legitimately would have covered in his cross-examination,” Morgan said.

Finally, the judge ordered Sax to pay Newell $48,500 in costs for the assessment hearing and subsequent court hearing.

My suggestion to my readers is tell the lawyer you want to know what his or her hourly rate will be and get it in writing before you do business with him or her.

If y don’t do this, you will be dealing with a crooked lawyer who should have never been permitted to practice law at any time or at anywhere. It is unfortunate indeed that the law profession has some scumbags practicing law and ripping off their clients and the law society does nothing about it.

AS far as I am concerned, the assessment officer (another lawyer) was no different that the lawyer that tried to cheat his client.

When I was practicing law, I represented a client who got ripped off by his lawyer. Later a friend of mine called me and told me that he paid a lawyer money for a marriage certificate. He didn’t produce it. He told me that he was a real estate lawyer and he didn’t know how to get a government marriage certificate. I asked him to pay back the money my friend gave him. He never paid my friend back A complaint was filed with the law society and they ignored the complaint by not writing back to my friend. May a pox be on both the lawyer and the law society.

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