Disbarred Edmonton lawyer accused of secretly practising law again

A disgraced and disbarred Edmonton lawyer has been accused of secretly practising law again.

The Law Society of Alberta is asking the Court of Queen's Bench to find Shawn Beaver in contempt of court for violating a court-imposed injunction forbidding him from providing legal advice or services.

The society application was filed in May 2018, but has remained out of  public view until now.

The law society's star witness is Chipo Florence Jura. She was admitted to the bar in March 2017 and set up as a sole practitioner in Edmonton specializing in family law.

Beaver was disbarred in February 2017.

According to her affidavit, in May 2017 Jura spotted an ad posted on Kijiji by Beaver offering his services as a legal tutor. She contacted Beaver, but decided his prices were too high.

Shawn Beaver/Facebook

She said three months later, Beaver contacted her and they met at his house.

"He advised me that he wanted to refer clients to me, on client matters outside my area of expertise," Jura alleged in her affidavit. "He proposed that he would tell me what to do on those matters and that I would pay him a portion of the fee."

Jura said she went along with Beaver's plan. For the next seven months, she said, she worked on a number of files at his request and "under his direction."

The rookie lawyer said she began to take on civil and criminal cases passed along to her by Beaver, admitting she had no experience and relied on him heavily for developing strategy and giving advice to clients.

Because Beaver was not allowed to practise law, Jura said she was the one who always appeared in court and corresponded with other lawyers on files.

"Depending on the file, he took one-quarter, one-third or one-half of the fee I charged the client," she said in her affidavit.

'It was a serious mistake to try to protect Beaver'

Jura was contacted by the law society in the fall of 2017, notifying her they planned to review her practice. She let Beaver know and claimed he told her to delete all emails from him, along with any references to him in her files.

Jura said Beaver also advised her to "withhold from the LSA investigators any information regarding Beaver's involvement in my legal practice."

She admitted she lied to investigators during her first two meetings with them. But partway through her third interview on Feb. 9, 2018, she changed her mind.

"I began to realize that it was a serious mistake to try to protect Beaver and that I needed legal counsel," she said.

She terminated the interview and hired Peter Royal to represent her.

The law society suspended Jura on Feb. 26, 2018. She said she contacted Beaver and told him she never wanted to talk to him again.

According to the second affidavit she filed, Jura is now living in Steinbach, Man.

The lawyers involved are trying to set up a date to cross-examine Jura in front of Court of Queen's Bench Associate Chief Justice John Rook.

At a hearing this week in Edmonton, Beaver's lawyer told the judge that Jura's credibility is "a live issue." Simon Renouf said they will ask the judge to "disbelieve Ms. Jura's assertions of wrongdoing."

None of the allegations made in Jura's affidavits have been proven in court.

Fall from grace

The law society decision that led to Beaver's disbarment noted that his once-thriving law firm had been a "solid criminal practice" but its income could not keep up with his spending.

Beaver had borrowed $250,000 from his father to set up the firm and used client funds to make loan payments. He also used company cash to pay for a firm-sponsored trip to an all-inclusive holiday resort, and for jewelry, furniture and other personal expenses. The company credit card was always maxed out at $50,000.

The hearing was told Beaver's life went through a series of tumultuous turns around 2014 after his mother died, his long-term relationship ended, and he struggled with alcohol abuse and depression. Beaver remarried in October 2014.

Kijiji

He began dipping into the company pooled trust account to access money paid by clients for future services. By May 2015, the trust account was $229,000 in the red.

Beaver admitted he also siphoned money from an account set up to provide funds to a mentally disabled, alcoholic, drug addicted street person.

The man, identified in the law society decision as D.I., had been awarded $250,000 from the estate of a person who had died without a will. D.I. gave Beaver power of attorney in January 2013. When Beaver began to run into financial problems, he made three large withdrawals on the principal, totalling $115,000.

"It is a sad irony that the funding arrangements put in place by Mr. Beaver ... was the very mechanism that allowed most of [D.I.'s] money to be taken by the person whom he trusted most of all," the law society decision noted.

'Mr. Beaver took the children's money too'

Beaver had a law student whose brother died suddenly in 2014 and left a widow and two young children. After the funeral, about $5,070 was raised to start an education fund for the children.

"Mr. Beaver took the children's money, too," the decision noted.

His law firm finally collapsed at the end of May 2015 because there wasn't enough money to meet payroll and the trust accounts had been drained.

When Beaver's associates found out, they contacted the law society and turned down his offer to keep the firm going.

One associate said she couldn't go on after Beaver "had stolen money from our clients."

On May 25, 2015, Beaver advised the law society in writing that there was a $180,000 deficiency in his firm's trust account.

The house of cards he'd built had finally crumbled.

His legal battles continue.