PAUL SYDNEY Shawa
Feb 25 2003, 10:18 AM
Lawyer admits stealing clients' money
The Canadian Press
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Winnipeg lawyer who has fought for the "underdog" since fleeing Africa pleaded guilty Monday to stealing funds from clients..
Paul Shawa, 45, admitted to taking nearly $20,000 from the trust accounts of three clients.
court Judge Ronald Meyers said Monday he was "flabbergasted" by Shawa's actions and motivation.
"This is a case like
no other," said Meyers, citing Shawa's exemplary record of community service. "Except for this instance, you have been a credit
to our society and I wish there were more people like you," said Meyers.
Defence lawyer Richard Wolson said unlike
other breaches of trust involving lawyers, Shawa was not motivated by greed.
"This man was always available to his
people," said Wolson. "He was always very sensitive to the plight of Africans or to people who came from poverty, the underdogs."
gave Shawa a conditional discharge and ordered him to perform 200 hours of community service work.
The Law Society
of Manitoba suspended Shawa for 18 months, but has since been allowed to return to his legal practice on a supervised basis.
Copyright 2003 Calgary Herald
Discipline Case Digest Index Law Society Home Page
PAUL SYDNEY SHAWA
Called to the BarJune 29, 1989
Particulars of ChargesProfessional Misconduct (9 counts)
· misappropriation (x3);
· attempt to mislead the Law Society;
· failure to serve client in a conscientious, diligent and efficient manner;
· failure to show courtesy and fairness to a fellow lawyer
· breach of the Rules Respecting Accounts;
· failure to invest client funds in specific trust investment account;
· failure to refer client for independent legal advice
Date of HearingSeptember 11, 2000
Panel H.S. Leonoff, Q.C. (Chair)
D.F. Plett, Q.C.
· One year suspension;
· Costs of $10,000.00;
· If member applies to resume practice following the suspension, member to practice
under supervision for a period of two years, or as an employee of a corporation as in-house counsel
· If under supervision or employed with a corporation:
i. the supervisor to meet monthly to review all new and open files;
ii. reports from the supervisor or the corporation at six month intervals confirming there have been no problems with the
member's handling of firm funds, client funds, or corporate funds;
iii. at six month intervals, the member to provide all of his clients with a written statement of the balance of the client's
trust funds; and
iv. no signing authority on any trust account for two years
· Member to comply with any conditions imposed by the Admissions and Education Committee
· Costs to be paid at the rate of $200.00 per month, commencing three months after
the member resumes active practice, or commencing November 1, 2001, if the member does not resume practice by that date, with
an acceleration clause if default occurs on any payment.
Counsel J.R. Gallagher for The Law Society of Manitoba
Vincent for the Member
Between January and December, 1999, Mr. Shawa made five unauthorized withdrawals totalling $19,656.69 from his pooled trust
bank account and charged the withdrawals to the trust ledgers of three separate clients. In four of the cases, the cheques
were written to friends or acquaintances who had requested that Mr. Shawa loan them money. In the other case, Mr. Shawa wrote
the cheque to a client to whom he owed money. On January 31, 2000, Mr. Shawa deposited $16,656.69 into his trust account to
replace the unauthorized withdrawals.
In an effort to mislead the Law Society, Mr. Shawa approached two of the clients and led them to believe that the withdrawals
were as a result of errors. The clients signed orders and directions to pay which Mr. Shawa back-dated and placed in the relevant
client files to give the impression that the payments had been pre-authorized by the clients. At the time of making the withdrawals
and deposit back into trust, Mr. Shawa failed to accurately record on the three client trust ledger cards, to whom the money
was paid or from where the money was received.
In March, 1998, Mr. Shawa was retained by the purchaser of a revenue property. He failed to address through trust conditions
the vendor's obligation to repay outstanding overpayments of rent. Mr. Shawa later failed to take steps to have the vendor
repay the rent overpayments. He also failed to enforce his trust condition requiring the vendor to pay unpaid utilities up
to the date of possession.
Mr. Shawa acted for a client in domestic proceedings and a property settlement was set out in a consent judgment. After
determining that the wife's pension could not be split in the agreed manner, Mr. Shawa requested that opposing counsel have
his client sign the necessary forms to have the pension divided equally. The opposing client refused to sign the forms until
other property issues were resolved. Over one year later, without further notice to opposing counsel, Mr. Shawa witnessed
his client's signature and submitted the forms, which resulted in the pension being divided in a manner contrary to the consent
judgement and in a $6,000.00 benefit to Mr. Shawa's client.
Mr. Shawa failed to obey or did not conform with the requirements of the Rules Respecting Accounts in a number of cases:
· In two matters, Mr. Shawa failed to accurately record on the client trust
ledgers from where certain monies were received and/or to whom they were disbursed.
· On four separate occasions, Mr. Shawa received funds for legal services to
be performed and he failed to deposit these funds into his pooled trust account as soon as practicable.
· In another matter, Mr. Shawa withdrew $107.00 from his pooled trust account
for the recovery of fees, without a bill having been prepared and sent to the client at the time the money was withdrawn.
On two matters, Mr. Shawa held large amounts in his trust account for long periods. Mr. Shawa failed to either obtain written
instructions from the clients to retain the funds in trust, or alternatively, to deposit the funds into separate interest-bearing
accounts for the clients.
Mr. Shawa failed to advise a client in writing to obtain independent legal advice regarding a retainer agreement which
gave Mr. Shawa a security interest in land owned by the client. Mr. Shawa later filed a caveat against the property after
the client failed to pay an interim statement of account.
Decision and Comments
Mr. Shawa entered a guilty plea to the nine charges and the Committee found him guilty of professional misconduct.
The Committee noted that misappropriation was a very serious matter and that unless special or exceptional circumstances
existed disbarment was the appropriate penalty. The Committee did find that there were three specific exceptional circumstances
in this case. First, Mr. Shawa admitted to the practice reviewers before a financial audit was commenced that he had engaged
in the behaviour. Second, the remorse shown by Mr. Shawa was exceptional, in that he assisted the custodian, he made total
restitution, he entered a guilty plea, and he spoke very eloquently and sincerely on his own behalf before the Committee.
Finally, the Committee considered the particulars of Mr. Shawa's life story and the cultural factors which might have influenced
The Committee accepted the joint recommendation that was presented and disposed of the matter by imposing a one year suspension
on Mr. Shawa, ordering that he pay costs of $10,000.00 and requiring Mr. Shawa to comply with the conditions as noted on the
face page of this digest