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B.C. lawyer 'ungovernable,' disbarred over misconduct history: Law Society

Hong Guo hired lawyers in Canada and China to investigate after more than $7.5 million was stolen from a Guo Law Company trust account. Hong Guo hired lawyers in Canada and China to investigate after more than $7.5 million was stolen from a Guo Law Company trust account.

A tribunal panel from the Law Society of B.C. has found Richmond lawyer Hong Guo "ungovernable" and disbarred her from practicing in the province, citing her lengthy disciplinary history and failure to co-operate with regulators.

Guo's record includes a variety of misconduct findings dating back to 2012, including for mishandling of trust funds, misrepresentations to clients, conflicts of interest, failure to supervise staff, and breaches of orders, according to a notice from the Law Society.

In a decision issued Monday, a tribunal panel said Guo has shown "little insight into the findings made against her, and continues to see herself as a victim."

"She has taken almost no steps to educate herself on her responsibilities, to train her staff or organize her practice," the decision reads.

Guo's conduct meets several of the tests for ungovernability, according to the panel, including a "consistent and repetitive" failure to respond to Law Society inquiries, and "some element of misleading behaviour" towards the Law Society or a client. She has also been found to have continued working in spite of suspension orders.

"Practicing law is a privilege. Lawyers must accept that their conduct will be governed by the Law Society. They must respect and abide by the rules that govern their conduct. They must deal with the Law Society in an honest, open and forthright manner at all times," the panel wrote.

In her defense, Guo argued her conduct did not have a detrimental impact on her clients, and that she did not financially benefit from it – in fact, when two employees stole $7.5 million she had been holding in a trust for clients in 2016, she contributed $2.6 million of her family's own money to cover the shortfall.

The theft was possible, in part, because Guo failed to supervise her bookkeeper, failed to follow the Law Society's trust accounting rules, and gave staff pre-signed blank trust cheques, according to one of the previous misconduct finding against her.

Guo also argued that she fills a need for legal services in Mandarin and Cantonese, and provided reference letters speaking to her reputation in the Chinese community, though the panel placed "little weight" on those testimonials.

"The Chinese-Canadian community needs and deserves lawyers who practice in compliance with the Law Society’s oversight. No client needs a lawyer who bends the rules and disregards the Law Society’s rules and regulations," the panel wrote.

On top of declaring Guo ungovernable and disbarring her, the tribunal ordered her to pay the Law Society's costs for the hearings. Top Stories

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