A tribunal has ruled that a Kelowna lawyer committed professional misconduct.
The decision was issued on March 4, 2022, by the Law Society of British Columbia Tribunal Hearing Division following allegations against Paule Fiona Seeger, who now goes by the name Paule Moore.
In November 2020, the Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) issued a citation against Seeger for allegedly withdrawing client funds from a trust account dozens of times over several years for services that had not been provided, and in contravention of the rules for such withdrawals.
Seeger (Moore) moved to Kelowna in 2010 and her main area of practice was family law. She closed her firm in December 2019 and has been with a legal services firm since March 2020.
The investigation began after an accountant hired by the lawyer filed a complaint to the LSBC in September 2018, alleging financial improprieties.
Among the allegations were that Seeger was “always” making transfers from a trust account to a general account to cover the firm’s payroll expenses, and that while she was out of the country on holiday in July 2018, Seeger left a packet of 30 to 40 signed, but otherwise blank, trust cheques for the accountant to use in her absence. The employee also reported concerns that a client was billed for court dates that had not yet taken place.
A forensic accounting investigation turned up a number of problems.
The citation issued in November alleged that Seeger misappropriated or improperly withdrew some or all of $1,400 in trust funds held in the account of one client when she was not entitled to do so. She admitted misappropriation in connection with that incident and the panel accepted that admission.
Other irregularities included the misappropriated or improper withdrawal of funds from her firm’s trust account when she had not rendered any or sufficient legal services to justify the withdrawals. She admitted “pre-billing” clients for services that were yet to be performed because of financial pressures.
The law society noted several violations of its code of conduct, including rules governing the withdrawal of trust funds, the protection of records and the duty to clients, the public and other members of the profession to act honourably and with integrity.
The Tribunal agreed with all of the points laid out in the citation and found Seeger committed professional misconduct.
A penalty has not yet been determined.