Rodgers faces allegations of misconduct from Bar Society

By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
September 23 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – In October 2018, Jason Boudrot, managing partner of the Port Hawkesbury law firm Boudrot Rodgers, contacted the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society (NSBS) to report that he had “some issues with his trust accounts,” as stated in a NSBS hearing committee document in 2019. That led to a suspension of Boudrot’s practicing certificate, a declaration of bankruptcy, and in 2019 the disbarment of Boudrot once it had become clear that he had stolen from clients’ trust funds.

Partner in the firm, Guysborough native Adam Rodgers, changed the name of the practice following Boudrot’s suspension to Adam Rodgers Law Group (ARLG) and attempted to keep the practice going. In December of 2018, ARLG became insolvent and closed its doors, laying off 15 employees.

In an interview Rodgers gave to The Journal at that time he 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.”

Two years later, Rodgers is facing a NSBS hearing on charges related to the Boudrot case. In a notice released by the NSBS in mid-August, several allegations were made. These allegations of conduct contrary to Barrister’s Society regulations, to be examined at a hearing scheduled for October 5 through 6, allege that Rodgers “engaged in professional misconduct by encouraging or knowingly assisting with fraudulent or dishonest dealings with clients’ trust monies” in that he “was aware of, was wilfully blind to, and/or was reckless about the fact that his partner, Jason Boudrot, was withdrawing funds from clients’ trust accounts without fees having being earned or prior to fees having been earned...”

The Bar Society alleges that Rodgers “allowed his firm to charge and accept fees that were not disclosed to clients in advance,” and “deposited, or allowed to be deposited, client trust funds in the firm’s general account without fees having being earned and/or before the fees were earned…”

Rodgers is also accused of engaging in “professional misconduct and/or professional incompetence” in failing “to care for clients’ property in a careful and prudent manner and failed to observe all relevant rules and law about the preservation and protection of clients’ property entrusted to a lawyer and law firm…”

The NSBS alleges that Rodgers “failed to directly supervise staff and assistants to whom he delegated work” and “improperly delegated responsibility for protection of client property to staff…”

The Society claims that “Adam Rodgers engaged in professional misconduct by failing to carry on the practice of law and discharge all responsibilities to clients, the public and other members of the profession honourably and with integrity, contrary to section 2.1 of the Code.”

Rodgers spoke to The Journal about the impending hearing on Friday and stated, “There are no allegations that I took any money from client trust accounts or charged anyone for work that was not done. The Bar Society is only alleging that I should have somehow been aware at an earlier date that my former partner, who was also the managing partner of the firm, was committing theft.”

He went on to describe the procedure of the hearing, “Often in a hearing like this you would have witnesses and testimony like you would in a civil or criminal trial but this is going to be a little different. The Bar Society has all of the firm’s records; client records, financial records – all of those things and some statements. What we are going to do is proceed with an agreed exhibit book of those documents and the Bar Society will make submissions to the panel, and then I’ll make submissions to the three-person panel, and then they will make a decision.”

The hearing panel is independent of the NSBS and includes two lawyers and one lay person. Chair of the panel in this instance is lawyer Douglas B. Shatford of Amherst.

Speaking again to the allegations made against him by the NSBS, Rodgers said, “I think that it is completely unnecessary and wrong that it’s gotten to this point where I’ve got to go to a hearing on this, when, as soon as I became aware that my former partner was stealing from client trust accounts, I did everything in my power to protect client interests, to assist our employees get jobs in other places and thrive elsewhere and anyone else connected with the firm to be made whole.

“I have spoken out publicly about the seriousness of what took place. I think I have done everything I was supposed to do. I have cooperated with the Bar Society at great lengths, while continuing to work on important cases. I wasn’t the cause of what took place with my firm, but I felt a responsibility to help out and I think I have done a good job at that. I have devoted all my energy and all my resources to it. I have tried to live up to the ideals of public service that the Bar Society promotes. For them to come after me in the way that they have, I feel, is completely improper, but I’m prepared to defend myself and am going to do so vigorously at the hearing.”

Rodgers told The Journal that there was no suggestion that he would be disbarred if the panel found against him. “If they found that I didn’t act properly there are potential consequences, but they wouldn’t rise to that level.”

Rodgers added, “I am trying to handle this the best I can and set an example in doing so. So, I am prepared to go in and say my piece and I am sure that a neutral panel will find in my favour.”