Alberta Woman Helped Keep Calgary Lawyers Accountable

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Alberta Woman Helped Keep Calgary Lawyers Accountable

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I spend a fair amount of time criticizing the Calgary Police Service and other law enforcement agencies. I'm also not shy when it comes to voicing my concerns about our government and some of its individual members. Everyone involved in government and law enforcement has a responsibility as a public servant to do what is in the public's best interest—to conduct themselves in a way that upholds the public trust, to make policy decisions based on the best interests of the community rather than their own agency or career and to measure success in the outcomes they achieve for others rather than the rewards they receive for themselves.

Lawyers are no different.

Whether a non-practicing law professor, a Crown prosecutor, or a Calgary criminal defence lawyer like myself, all lawyers have a duty to ensure that their actions serve the larger interests of Calgary and Canada's communities, and maintain the strictest adherence to the ethical standards of the legal profession. When a lawyer fails in this, the outcome is detrimental not only to their clients but to the legal system—one of the cornerstones of our democracy—as a whole.

Lawyers need to held accountable, just like law enforcement and government officials. One woman spent the last decades of her life fighting for precisely that cause. While many in the legal profession question the efficacy of what she achieved, there can be little doubt that the sentiment her actions stemmed from is a laudable and necessary check on the practice of law.

Angela Filipowich, Victims of Law Dilemma, and the Citizens Legal Reform Society of Alberta

Angie Filipowich's problem with the law—and with lawyers—began when she was one of many victims of fraud at the hands of a legal professional. An investment scheme saw her lose $70,000 to an unscrupulous lawyer whose name we won't mention here. Though many of the fraudster's victims received compensation from the Law Society, the self-regulating association of lawyers tasked with keeping lawyers honest, ethical, and practicing in their clients' best interests, Filipowich was not. It was determined that the lawyer wasn't actually acting as a legal adviser to Filipowich and a few of the others he defrauded, and therefore they weren't due compensation from the Law Society.

To be fair, we should keep in mind that the payments made by the Law Society all came out of other, honest lawyers' pockets—our profession is such that we actually hold ourselves responsible for our peers' misdeeds. In making a determination of who should receive what compensation, the Law Society had to weigh what was fair for all concerned. Still, as you might imagine, the decision didn't sit well with Filipowich, and she spent the rest of her life crusading for better oversight of the legal practice. The advocacy groups she started, Victims of Law Dilemma (VOLD) and Citizens Legal Reform Society of Alberta, have impacted the way law is practice and regulated. When the goal is a society that functions fairly and in everyone's interests, it's hard to call her fight anything but noble.