Can a lawyer who entered into a fixed fee agreement with a client without the client signing a written agreement with respect to the amount of money that was deposited into his general account?

British Columbia, Canada

The following excerpt is from Guo (Re), 2021 LSBC 20 (CanLII):

In Law Society of Upper Canada v. Roper, 2020 ONLSTH 74, the respondent was an undischarged bankrupt and so did not operate a trust account. He entered into fixed fee agreements with three clients. In one instance, a written agreement was signed at which time the respondent received a substantial partial payment for which the client was invoiced. In a second instance, the initial payment was received, and an invoice prepared, a few days before a written agreement was signed. In the third instance, a written agreement was provided to the client but never signed, and the client provided an initial payment for which she was invoiced. In all three instances, the initial payment was deposited into the lawyer’s general account and spent by the lawyer before any legal services had been provided. The panel held that the lawyer committed professional misconduct by depositing the money into his general account because, under the applicable rules, money received for legal services only ceased to be trust monies once the lawyer had performed the services and delivered a bill (paras. 65-74).

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