Under the Legal Profession Act and Law Society Rules, the Law Society has the power to investigate and address concerns we receive about a lawyer that presents a risk to the public. Our staff carefully assesses every concern. If warranted, the matter is investigated and appropriate action taken. Our priority is to protect the public.

Initial assessment

When the Law Society receives a complaint, intake staff assess the matter, which may require asking for additional information to support the complaint.

A complaint file will be closed at this stage if:

  • there is insufficient information to warrant further consideration;
  • it falls outside the jurisdiction of the Law Society;
  • it is frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process; or
  • the allegations, if proven, would not constitute a discipline violation.

Investigation

If there is a basis for investigation, information and documents will be gathered. The lawyer may be required to provide a response to the conduct concerns. The investigation could also include a review of the lawyer’s file, interviews with various parties and an examination of accounting records.

Outcomes

At the conclusion of the investigation, there are five possible outcomes:

  • the complaint may be closed if it cannot be proven, or if it does not show conduct serious enough to warrant further action;
  • the complaint may be closed if the issues have been resolved;
  • in the case of competency issues, the lawyer may be referred to the Practice Standards Committee for remedial measures;
  • in the case of a health issue, the lawyer may be referred to the Alternative Discipline Process; or
  • if there are ethical concerns or breaches of the Law Society Rules, the lawyer may be referred to the Discipline Committee for a disciplinary response.

If it is referred for a disciplinary response, the Discipline Committee will review the matter and recommend one of the following consequences:

  • No further action.
  • Conduct letter − The committee chair may send a letter to the lawyer expressing the committee’s concerns and reminding the lawyer of professional obligations. A copy or summary of the letter will be sent to the complainant.
  • Conduct meeting − A conduct meeting may be held between the lawyer and one or more Benchers or lawyers to discuss the conduct of the lawyer. The purpose of the meeting is to educate the lawyer about the conduct in question and to ensure the lawyer has a greater understanding of the consequences.
  • Conduct review − A conduct review may be ordered to discuss the misconduct. The review is a formal meeting with one or more senior lawyers to make sure the lawyer understands the problems created by the conduct and to satisfy the review committee that the lawyer is unlikely to repeat the behaviour.  A conduct review is not a formal hearing, and it is conducted privately. The person who filed the complaint is invited to attend part of the review.  The review becomes part of the lawyer’s record and may be considered if any future discipline violations are proved against the lawyer.
  • A formal citation. A citation is a public document issued by the LSBC Tribunal in cases where a lawyer’s alleged conduct is serious. The citation lists allegations against the lawyer that will be the subject of a public hearing and ruling. When a citation is issued, the matter will be heard by a tribunal hearing  panel at a public hearing. A citation may result in the lawyer being fined, suspended or disbarred. Current citations can be found here.

Requesting a review

If you are unhappy with a Law Society decision about your concern, you may:

  • seek a review of the decision by the Law Society's Complainants' Review Committee; or
  • seek assistance from the provincial Office of the Ombudsperson, if you think the process was unfair.

Complainants' Review Committee

The Complainants' Review Committee reviews the files of individuals who are dissatisfied with the dismissal of their complaints by the Law Society staff.

Not all dismissals have an automatic right of review. The Complainants’ Review Committee will not consider a review of complaints that are outside the jurisdiction of the Law Society, are frivolous or an abuse of process or don’t allege facts that would constitute a discipline violation.

You must apply for a review within 30 days after the assessment was communicated to you. Download and print the request form and information sheet, fill the request form out manually and submit it to the Law Society one of the following ways:

Attention: Complainants’ Review Committee
Professional Conduct
The Law Society of British Columbia
845 Cambie Street
Vancouver BC  V6B 4Z9

  • Fax the completed form to 604.605.5399.

After it reviews the file, the committee can confirm the decision to take no further action, or will refer the matter to the Practice Standards Committee or the Discipline Committee.

Office of the Ombudsperson

If you feel the Law Society's process was unfair, you may also contact the Office of the Ombudsperson, an independent body that handles complaints about provincial public authorities.

Resources

Raising a concern

LSBC Tribunal website

Review: Request form and information sheet


Privacy of complaints and investigations

The Law Society does not disclose whether a complaint has been filed against a lawyer or whether an investigation is underway. However, if the existence of the complaint has already been reported publicly, for example in the media, the Law Society may confirm that an investigation is underway. As well, subject to information protected by solicitor/client privilege and a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality to clients and former clients, the lawyer may disclose information about the complaint or its investigation to others.

As part of the investigation, all information the complainant provides to the Law Society may be forwarded to the lawyer. If the complaint results in a citation being issued against the lawyer, a public hearing will be held. In this case, only information protected by solicitor/client privilege can be kept private unless an order is made by the hearing panel that other information not be disclosed to protect the interests of any person.

Under the Legal Profession Act, information obtained during an investigation cannot be used in other proceedings except with the consent of the author. The Law Society is also subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As a result, information gathered by the Law Society may be disclosed, on request, to other persons whose interests are affected.