Ontario Court of Appeal reinstates lawyer’s dismissal for insolent letter

Second appeal court agrees with trial court that lawyer’s critical letter warranted dismissal; first appeal overturned the dismissal
By Arthur Zeilikman
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 12/12/2012

An Ontario lawyer has won the third round of a court battle against a fired subordinate lawyer, with the Ontario Court of Appeal reinstating the latter’s dismissal for a letter accusing her of dishonesty and incompetence.

In the summer of 2002, Dawn Marie Bennett was hired by Karen Cunningham to work primarily on family law matters in Cunningham’s small law office in Mississauga, Ont. Bennett worked long hours from Monday to Friday and often on weekends. Her arrangement with Cunningham was she would earn a base commission of 50 per cent of fees billed and collected of her docketed hours along with a $38,000 annual advance that was recoverable against her commissions. She would also handwrite her dockets, which were then entered into the accounting software by Cunningham’s receptionist.

Bennett soon became concerned the law office was lacking in adequate resources and technology, causing it to be inefficient and unorganized. She prepared a proposed business plan to address these concerns and met with Cunningham in order to go over it.