Quick Facts: Complaints and Discipline
- The Law Society receives about 1,100 complaints each year, representing a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of files handled collectively by BC lawyers per year.
- In 2012, 92% of complaints were dealt with in under one year.
- Complex investigations take more than a year because they often must be coordinated with investigations by other bodies, court actions, jurisdictional issues, and forensic audits of a lawyer’s accounts.
- In 2012, 134 complaints were referred to the Discipline Committee, resulting in 34 citations.
- In 2012, 15 lawyers were fined, 7 were suspended and 1 admitted wrongdoing.
- Between 2000 and 2012, the Law Society disbarred 18 lawyers.
Lawyers are honest, hard working professionals who devote their time and expertise to helping people and organizations sort out their legal issues. Most British Columbians are satisfied with the service they get from their lawyers. But sometimes, a lawyer’s actions or behavior can fall short of the high standards expected.
The Law Society considers every formal complaint about conduct and competence it receives. Complaints come from the public, other lawyers, and the courts. Sometimes the Law Society itself opens a complaint file based on media reports.
How complaints are processed
Most lawyers have never required discipline by the Law Society.
If an investigation reveals evidence that a lawyer’s conduct has breached Law Society Rules or the Legal Profession Act, or has fallen short of ethical guidelines, including those described in the Professional Conduct Handbook, the matter may be referred to the Law Society Discipline Committee.
The main goal of disciplinary action is to make sure lawyers face consequences if they fail to meet the standards that are in place to protect the public. After reviewing an investigation, the Discipline Committee can recommend one of the following:
- No further action
- A conduct letter (outlines the complaint and consequences of lawyer’s actions)
- A conduct meeting (private meeting to discuss complaint and consequences)
- A conduct review (formal private meeting to discuss the complaint and consequences; report forms part of lawyer’s professional record)
- A citation ordering a formal public hearing
After a hearing and if allegations against the lawyer have been proven, a discipline panel orders one or more of the following penalties:
- a letter of reprimand
- a fine
- conditions or restrictions on the lawyer’s practice
Figures in this fact sheet are estimates, based on recent statistics. Page last updated June 2013.