Nova Scotia

Lyle Howe disciplinary hearing continues with lawyer Stan MacDonald on stand

Stan MacDonald told Lyle Howe's disciplinary hearing Thursday that the lawyer's practice of scheduling two substantive court matters for the same time was "very risky."

Experienced defence lawyer reviewed Howe's law practice, called as expert witness

Lawyer Lyle Howe is facing a Nova Scotia Barristers' Society disciplinary hearing. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A senior Nova Scotia defence lawyer told Lyle Howe's disciplinary hearing Thursday that Howe's practice of scheduling two substantive court matters for the same time was "very risky." 

Stan MacDonald testified before a panel of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, which accuses Howe of professional misconduct and professional incompetence.

MacDonald was hired by the society to review Howe's law practice. MacDonald stressed during his testimony that he was only asked to look at the practice and not any complaints made against Howe.

Gave advice when asked

MacDonald said he met Howe shortly after the younger man started practising law. MacDonald said he found Howe to be very well-spoken and that he would occasionally give Howe advice when asked.

However, MacDonald also said he noticed Howe was frequently late for court. One of the principal complaints against Howe is that he was frequently double-booked and scheduled to be in two or more courtrooms at the same time.

​MacDonald said he found examples of that when he reviewed Howe's court schedule. MacDonald cited one day when Howe had matters scheduled in Bridgewater, Halifax and Dartmouth all at the same time.

MacDonald acknowledged the court calendar also included cases for Howe's wife, Laura McCarthy, who had just started practising law a few months earlier. But MacDonald said even two lawyers would be hard-pressed to meet all the commitments.

Expert witness

MacDonald has been certified by the complaints panel as an expert witness, enabling him to give opinion evidence on the proper way to operate a law practice. Howe had objected to MacDonald being given expert status but his objection was overruled.

MacDonald said as part of his review, he questioned why Howe was charging clients $350 an hour. MacDonald said the rate seemed high for someone who had only been practising law a few years. MacDonald said Howe replied, "It's not the years, it's the mileage," meaning he'd gained a lot of experience in a short time.

Earlier this week, before MacDonald was called to testify, Howe described him as part of an "old boys' club" that dominated criminal defence work in Halifax.

​The CBC's Blair Rhodes live blogged from the hearing.