There is no shortage of lawyer jokes for a reason. Lawyers rank about as high (or low, depending on how you look at it) as used-car salesman and politicians when it comes public perception. Unfortunately, lawyers are sometimes seen as profiting from the misfortunes of others.
However, this perception is generally inaccurate, and a measure implemented by the Law Society of Upper Canada is indication of such. Specifically, the Society has put in place a requirement that all real-estate lawyers sign an annual declaration verifying their knowledge of anti-fraud practices.
Victims of fraud
In fact, the measures have been put in place in part because it’s been the lawyers that have been the victims of fraud, and not just their clients. So the new measures are meant to ensure that real-estate lawyers are fully aware of their responsibilities regarding fraud protection.
The declaration comes amid a rise in fraud in the mortgage and real-estate sector. About a quarter of complaints filed against lawyers came within the real-estate sector. The fact of the matter is that real-estate fraudsters have become so adept at what they do that they’re no longer afraid of the lawyers.
In fact, the real-estate fraudsters are targeting the lawyers, which means the lawyers’ clients succumb to the scams, too. Or, perhaps more interestingly, the clients can defraud their lawyers, too.
The new measures
The declaration that real-estate lawyers now have to sign on an annual basis currently includes measures such as: being aware of their obligation to supervise non-lawyers on their staff, knowledge that a lawyer can’t act on behalf of both a buyer and seller in the transfer of a title (except in rare circumstances), and to not act in any way that assists a client or anyone else in perpetrating dishonesty, fraud, or illegal conduct.
It may seem odd that lawyers are being forced to remind themselves of what their ethical obligations are in relation to real-estate fraud. But it’s the duty of any profession — whether it’s doctors, lawyers, or even mechanics — to ensure that its practitioners are up to date on the latest methods of protecting their clients or customers, and themselves.
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