Ottawa lawyer in legal services-for-sex scandal probed for mishandling money

The concerns are detailed in a recent law-tribunal decision that established the remorseful Bowie failed to co-operate with three law-society investigations.

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Embattled Ottawa lawyer James Bowie, under investigation by the Law Society of Ontario for an alleged legal services-for-sex scandal, remains suspended for failing to co-operate in three unrelated cases — including concerns he may have misappropriated trust money from clients.

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The concerns are detailed in a recent law-tribunal decision that established the remorseful Bowie failed to co-operate with three law-society investigations.

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As reported by this newspaper in December, Bowie has been suspended until he properly co-operates with the law-society investigations.

The recently released law-society tribunal’s suspension notice reveals its investigator was looking into three complaints from clients that “the lawyer may have:”

• mishandled or misappropriated trust monies of two clients;

• failed to deposit monies in a trust account on behalf of two clients;

• failed to maintain books and records in compliance with By-Law 9 in regard to two clients;

• failed to account to a client for retainer monies in regard to two clients;

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• failed to obtain and verify client identification;

• misled the Law Society;

• practised law while his licence was administratively suspended;

• failed to adequately define the scope of his retainer;

• failed to communicate in a manner inconsistent with the proper tone of professional communication; and

• failed to respond to communications from the Law Society.

Born in 1983, Bowie was licensed in 2015 and has worked as a sole practitioner since 2020 in Ottawa. Bowie has accepted responsibility for not responding to the law-society investigator and has apologized. The lawyer also said he didn’t maintain trust ledgers.

In an email to the law-society last year, Bowie said he was too busy to reply because he got famous tweeting about the convoy occupation.

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Bowie believed he was famous on Twitter and managing his social media account was more time-consuming than his practice.

“I’ve just been busier than I’ve ever been in my life,” Bowie told the law society investigator in a March 9 email.

Bowie acknowledged the investigator’s reminder letters but said he had a convoy of truckers outside his office.

“I expected the truckers to interfere with client appointments and my commute.

“I did not expect them to make me famous,” Bowie said after asking the law society to empathize with him.

Bowie is also under investigation in an alleged legal services-for-sex scandal.

A sole practitioner, Bowie believed he was famous online and that he was the focus of some attention during the “Freedom Convoy” protest.

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“As I began to express my frustration about the convoy on Twitter, I have become the focus of some attention. I’ve been on CBCNN, CTV, CBC radio, CBC print, local talk radio. I declined CBC The National, although the national news anchor read my tweets on the national news.”

Bowie said he garnered what he called a national following after tweeting about Tamara Lich’s bail hearing.

“I started getting more than one hundred notifications a minute, 28 thousand new followers (on Twitter), multiple daily media requests, and messages from concerned citizens,” he wrote, adding that the investigator could, if curious, check out the hashtag #BailWithBowie.

He then said he had been inundated with requests, including one to teach a “mini-course” on bail hearings at Queen’s.

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Bowie said his time spent on Twitter was no excuse, “but I do hope you’ll see that my full and substantive response, while late, comes in the context of a number of events I’m having a giant pity party about. The courts are closed. Crime is down. … I got famous. Could I have responded sooner? Yes, I could have. Please accept my apology for not responding sooner.

I hope that my answer provides you with some humour, some real understanding of my life and my practice, and some humanity behind who I am and why I am now penning this lengthy apology for my tardy but substantive reply,” he said in the March 9 email.

Bowie was suspended Friday for professional misconduct. Law society tribunal chair Murray Chitra ordered Bowie to cease practising law immediately until he answers fully and appropriately to public complaints that he gave poor service and ghosted clients when they demanded a refund.

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Bowie also practised law while under suspension in 2022. Bowie had multiple short-term administrative suspensions, according to an affidavit filed by a law society investigator.

While those complaints were addressed at December’s disciplinary hearing, Bowie is now waiting for the results of another law society investigation about allegations that he offered legal services for sex, invited a client to “crush lines” of cocaine and then sent the client an unsolicited picture of his penis.

The woman has since retained criminal law specialist Michael Spratt, who filed the complaint to the law society on her behalf, as reported in this newspaper last year.

The complaint to the law society included attachments of Snapchat messages between Bowie and his client at the time and a screenshot of the unsolicited image.

Bowie has yet to respond to this newspaper’s requests for comment.


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