The Law Society requires not only that lawyers follow the Law Society Rules, but also that they practise law ethically and competently, following guidelines in the Code of Professional Conduct for BC.

Lawyers are expected, for example, to:

  • be honest and courteous;
  • keep clients informed, respond promptly to phone calls or letters and work in a timely fashion;
  • respect client confidences;
  • safeguard client funds and property and account for money entrusted to them;
  • maintain adequate skills to represent clients effectively; and
  • not act in a conflict of interest.

A breach of the Rules or failure to act ethically and competently might be a legitimate basis for a complaint. The following list is not exhaustive, but offers examples of the kinds of complaints the Law Society can investigate.

  • Breach of undertaking – An undertaking is a declaration of intention made by a lawyer to someone who might reasonably expect to rely on that declaration. Lawyers must fulfill every undertaking they make, and must report to the Law Society another lawyer’s failure to fulfill an undertaking.
  • Conflict of interest – A lawyer has a duty to give undivided loyalty to every client. For example, a lawyer must not represent a client who is acting against another one of the lawyer's clients or former clients.
  • Delay/inactivity – A lawyer must respond promptly to emails, telephone calls or letters that require a response and complete work in a timely fashion. If the lawyer can reasonably foresee delays in providing advice or services, he or she should inform the client, so that clients can make an informed choice about their options.
  • Transparency regarding fees – A lawyer has a responsibility to disclose to the client at the outset, in a manner that is transparent and understandable, the basis on which the client is to be billed for both professional time and any other charges. In considering a complaint about a lawyer’s billing practises, the Law Society does not regulate fees and cannot order a lawyer to reduce his or her bill.
  • Failure to communicate – A lawyer must keep clients adequately informed so that clients can make fully informed decisions and provide instructions. A lawyer is also expected to answer reasonable requests from a client for information, to respond to a client’s emails or telephone calls, and to keep appointments with a client, or else provide a timely explanation or apology when unable to keep an appointment.
  • Failure to release file/records or send bills – A lawyer should promptly return a client’s correspondence, files, reports, invoices and other such documents on request or at the conclusion of the lawyer’s retainer.
  • Rudeness and or threatening behaviour – A lawyer has a duty to provide courteous service to clients.
  • Withdrawal – A lawyer must not withdraw from representation of a client except for good cause and on reasonable notice to the client.
  • Theft – The Law Society requires lawyers to be honest. Any substantiated allegation that a lawyer has stolen money or property will be investigated.
  • Criminal activity – When a lawyer is charged with a criminal offence, our rules require the lawyer to report those charges to the Law Society. We may also learn of criminal charges against a lawyer from other sources. When we become aware of a lawyer being charged with a criminal offence, we open a file and conduct an investigation.