The defendant in the action, Fenwick Holdings Limited, motioned to remove William as Margaret’s representative. Fenwick argued that William was in a conflict of interest and could not represent Margaret. Fenwick also asserted that as William is the plaintiff’s husband, he has a financial interest in the outcome of the litigation. He was also a fact witness to the plaintiff’s fall, and consequently, he will have made observations relevant to the plaintiff’s damages claim. Fenwick argued that a lawyer cannot be a witness and counsel in the same proceeding.
The plaintiff, Margaret, argued that William was representing her in a personal or private capacity. She contended that discharging him would deprive her of her choice of counsel and would impose time and monetary penalties on her. She argued that it would be difficult and counterproductive to represent her claim without William’s legal training and that hiring outside counsel would be expensive.
The Nova Scotia Supreme Court ultimately ruled that William failed to meet the statutory requirements to be eligible to practise law in the province. The court noted that he resigned from the Society in 2010 and has not been a member since. The court pointed out that even if he was not acting for a fee, he stood to receive indirect compensation, considering that the plaintiff is his wife and any monetary award she might receive would be of joint benefit.
The court further explained that the relationship between William and the plaintiff may give rise to a conflict of interest based on s. 34 of the Code of Conduct, which requires lawyers to avoid conflicts of interest. The Society noted that a conflict may arise when “A lawyer has a sexual or close personal relationship with a client. Such a relationship may conflict with the lawyer’s duty to