Every complaint received by our complaints intake staff is reviewed, and if it is substantiated and falls within the Law Society’s jurisdiction it may lead to an investigation.

The Law Society attempts to resolve complaints at an early stage, but if early resolution is not possible, a complaint proceeds through a series of steps.

Review by Intake

When the Law Society receives a complaint, intake staff determine if there is a basis for investigation. The complainant may be asked to provide additional information to support the complaint. A complaint will be closed at this stage if:

  • it is unsubstantiated (insufficient information is provided 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 lawyer’s file may be reviewed. When necessary, additional investigative steps may also be taken including conducting interviews and reviewing accounting records.

Assessment

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

  • the complaint is closed if it cannot be supported or proven, or if it does not show conduct serious enough to warrant further action;
  • the complaint is closed on the basis that the issues have been resolved;
  • if there are competency concerns, the lawyer may be referred to the Practice Standards Committee for remedial measure to improve his or her practice; or
  • if there are ethical concerns or breaches of the Law Society Rules, the lawyer may be referred to the Discipline Committee for further action (a disciplinary response).

The Discipline Committee is composed of Law Society Benchers, including elected and appointed Benchers. There is always an appointed Bencher on the panel who is not a lawyer who  represents the public interest. After considering a complaint, the Discipline Committee has authority to recommend the possible consequences listed below.

  • Take no further action.
  • Send a conduct letter to the lawyer. The Committee chair may write the lawyer a letter expressing the Committee’s concerns and reminding the lawyer of his or her professional obligations. A conduct letter is sent to the lawyer and a copy or summary is sent to the complainant. Unlike a conduct review and a citation, a conduct letter does not form part of a lawyer’s professional conduct record and is not admissible in the hearing of any future citation.
  • Order a conduct meeting. A conduct meeting is held between the lawyer and one or more Benchers or lawyers to discuss the conduct of the lawyer. Meetings are held in private but unlike a conduct review and a citation, a conduct meeting does 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.
  • Order a conduct review. 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 is 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.
  • Issue a citation. A citation is a public document issued by the Law Society in cases where a lawyer’s alleged conduct is serious. The citation lists the 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 before a panel at a public hearing. A citation may result in the lawyer being fined, suspended or disbarred. Current citations can be found here.