PORT HAWKESBURY – Last Friday many were shocked by the announcement that Rodgers Law Group, formerly Boudrot Rodgers Law Office, was closing its doors, putting 15 employees out of work. The announcement came after the new managing partner, Guysborough native Adam Rodgers, discovered a staggering $1.5 million debt after former partner Jason Boudrot had been suspended from practicing law in the province of Nova Scotia at the end of October for allegedly misappropriating funds from clients' trust funds.
Rodgers spoke to The Journal on Saturday about the situation and the next steps for the lawyers and employees of the firm.
“Staff were certainly aware that things weren't great ever since a month ago when we discovered that a managing partner had been misappropriating funds,” he said of the layoffs.
One of the issues, said Rodgers, was not only that Boudrot had stolen from trust funds but that the 2017 year-end accounting statements had not been finished. “Normally I would look at these on an annual basis but those hadn't been done yet. There were a number of things like that I discovered after I took over the firm in the last month. Despite all efforts to try to keep things going, he had just dug us into too deep of a hole and this is the result.”
After Boudrot's suspension at the end of October, his clients were given the choice to remain with lawyers within the firm or chose another firm; many stayed with the firm, said Rodgers. “Our number one priority was to make sure that clients were affected as little as possible...We were able to get a lot of deals closed, files completed, and other things done over the past month so I was very happy with that; to not have too much disruption for clients. Now clients of his that still have ongoing matters, they'll be handled through a custodian that the Barristers' Society has appointed to help us out.
“For me I am still practicing; I am exploring my own opportunities to work for other firms or perhaps open up my own. I will decide that quickly I expect. Right now I am temporarily practising as a sole practitioner. Ongoing matters are still being handled. Any client that has an ongoing, active matter -- that will continue on as normal...We don't know where everybody is going to end up yet...but everybody will certainly be practicing in the same area and continuing with existing clients.”
The next steps for the business, formerly know as Boudrot Rodgers Law Office, are not completely clear. The main creditor, Scotia Bank, has taken action to freeze the accounts. But, said Rodgers, they haven't taken official action as to whether it will be a receivership or a trustee appointment. “I expect that to be coming in a short time frame.”
Commenting on the revelation of the actions of Boudrot, Rodgers said, “It came as a complete surprise to us. Trust funds are sacrosanct, you learn this in your first day of law school. It's something nobody ever does...For him to do that was a complete shock and then to discover, after taking over the firm management, what state he'd left things in, again I never saw any of that coming. Here we are, this move, unfortunate though it is for many people, it was the best thing we had to protect clients' interests, that's really what lawyers are obliged to do from an ethical and professional perspective. I am trying to do that as best I can.”
Rodgers has been open about the situation in the media, stating that being transparent is important to help foster the public’s faith in the justice system.