Diane LM Cook|May 4, 2011
It wasn’t too long ago that certain lawyers were extolling the benefits of boutique law firms. But four senior lawyers from Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP and a junior associate found out that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
In March 2010, Ron Mar, Craig Spurn, and Edmund Gill left Blakes and opened Venn Law in Calgary. They were later joined by Kurtis Bond and Chris McLelland. Venn was a corporate law boutique with an emphasis on tax law and oil and gas transactions and projects. “Venn’s business plan was heavily focused on the research, development, and implementation of innovative financially efficient structures for a target clientele,” says Spurn, who along with the other Venn partners has now joined McCarthy Tétrault LLP’s Calgary office.
Spurn says Venn’s greatest challenge was staying true to its specific business purpose in its day-to-day decision making and action taking. However, overcoming that challenge was their greatest success. “It allowed us to be efficient in making hard decisions along the way.”
The Law Society of British Columbia has posted a warning on its web site of another variation on the bad cheque scam that’s been plaguing the profession, particularly real estate practitioners.
In this case, the scamsters are using a fake Toronto-based law firm named Wagner Elliot LLP and a relatively sophisticated fraudulent web site to fool lawyers into believing it is a real law firm. The scamsters hope to trick you into paying out on a phony trust cheque, certified cheque or bank draft, says the LSBC.
Although Wagner Elliott LLP is used as the bogus site in this scam, the details — including the fake law firm used — may vary. Here’s generally how the scam works:
• You are contacted by a new client who claims to live in another country (e.g. Japan) and wants you to act on a conveyance.
• The client has used a B.C. realtor to make an offer to purchase with subjects on a residential property in B.C.
• The realtor sends you the signed contract of purchase and sale.
• The client tells you that they will have their Wagner Elliot LLP lawyer, based in Toronto, send you the funds.
• You receive a well made but phony instrument for deposit into your trust account.
• Soon after you deposit the funds into trust, the client contacts you to say that they aren’t removing the subjects and to please return the funds.
• If you write a trust cheque before learning that the instrument was bad, you’ve been scammed.