The Law Society is committed to ensuring that lawyers practise ethically and competently.
If you have concerns about a lawyer, you may file a complaint. The Law Society reviews all complaints we receive. Before filing a complaint, you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with the complaints process, the kinds of complaints the Law Society is authorized to investigate, and the limits of what the Law Society can do.
The complaints and discipline process
New complaints are reviewed by Intake staff and you may be asked to provide additional information. If your complaint is substantiated and fall within the Law Society’s jurisdiction, it will be forwarded for further review and, if warranted, an investigation may be conducted.
During the investigation of a complaint, the Law Society gathers information in order to assess the concerns you have raised about the lawyer. The steps taken in an investigation may include requesting information and documents, obtaining the lawyer’s response to your concerns, and, where warranted, conducting interviews. The amount of time it takes to complete an investigation varies and most investigations are concluded within one year.
After the investigation is completed, your complaint will be assessed. The complaint may be closed with no further action if there is a lack of evidence or if the conduct concerns have been adequately addressed. Some complaints are also resolved. In other cases, the lawyer may be referred to remedial support to improve their practice and competency. If the complaint raises serious concerns, it is forwarded to the Discipline Committee for further consideration.
Consideration by the Discipline Committee
Serious complaints are forwarded to the Discipline Committee for a decision on the correct form of disciplinary action. In reaching appropriate and consistent decisions on the matters that come before them, the Discipline Committee is guided by the Conduct Assessment & Disposition Guidelines. Potential Discipline Comittee decisions include:
- take no further action,
- send a conduct letter to the lawyer,
- order a conduct meeting,
- order a conduct review, or
- authorize the Law Society to issue a citation, which will lead to a public hearing.
A conduct letter outlines the complaint and the professional conduct concerns. It is sent to the lawyer and a copy or summary is sent to the complainant. A conduct letter does not form part of a lawyer’s professional conduct record and is not admissible in the hearing of a citation.
Conduct meetings are held in private and do not form part of a lawyer’s professional conduct record. The purpose of the meeting is to educate the lawyer about the conduct that has resulted in the complaint and to ensure the lawyer has a greater understanding of the consequences of his or her actions.
A conduct review is a meeting between at least one Law Society Bencher and one other senior lawyer to discuss the conduct that led to the complaint.
The purpose of the conduct review is to make sure the lawyer understands the problems created by the conduct and to satisfy the review committee that the behaviour is unlikely to be repeated.
The conduct review process is not a formal hearing, and the review is conducted privately. This allows the reviewers and the lawyer to be free to exchange views and opinions.
The complainant is invited to attend a portion of the review and to provide information about the particular conduct in question.
The conduct review is not made public, unless the public is already aware of the complaint. An anonymous summary of the conduct review is published. However, the review does become part of the lawyer’s record and can be considered should any future discipline violations be proved against the lawyer.
At the conclusion of a conduct review, the reviewers prepare a report for the Discipline Committee outlining their findings, conclusions and recommendations. The Discipline Committee then has the option to:
- take no further action;
- refer the lawyer to the Practice Standards Committee in cases where the lawyer’s skills may need upgrading;
- authorize issuance of a citation, which is the first step towards a public hearing; or
- rescind the original decision and substitute another decision.