Alternative Discipline Process

The Alternative Discipline Process (ADP) is a pilot program that diverts lawyers who are under investigation from the regular disciplinary process to one focused on the support and management of underlying health issues.


The goal of the ADP is to encourage lawyers with health issues to come forward, get help, and prevent harm to themselves and their clients.

The ADP recognizes that lawyers can be reluctant to acknowledge misconduct or to disclose health issues to the Law Society in the course of an investigation. Often it is not until a matter has been referred to a disciplinary hearing, and the tribunal is considering what penalty is appropriate, that a lawyer discloses evidence of a health issue. This may be months or even years after the original complaint or report has been made, and by that time the Law Society has lost the opportunity to intervene early to get the lawyer back on track.

The ADP provides eligible lawyers with the opportunity to address their health issues earlier in the investigation process, so they can return to serving their clients diligently, and in accordance with their ethical and professional obligations. In this way, ADP aims to protect and promote the public interest by putting lawyers in a stronger, healthier position to meet their professional responsibilities, and ultimately to reduce the likelihood that the misconduct associated with a health issue will escalate or recur.


To be eligible to participate in the ADP, a lawyer must be experiencing a health issue that is impacting their ability to comply with their professional obligations. The executive director must also be satisfied, based on all the relevant circumstances, that a referral to ADP is consistent with the public interest. As part of this assessment, the executive director will consider all the circumstances of the case, including:

  • The nature and seriousness of the alleged misconduct;
  • The impact on the Law Society’s ability to protect the public; and
  • The impact on the public’s confidence in the profession and in self-regulation.

If, at any point during the lawyer’s participation in ADP, the lawyer’s participation ceases to be in the public interest, the file will be returned to the regular disciplinary process.

Guiding principles

The ADP is guided by the following principles:

  1. Public interest paramount: Public interest considerations will inform all aspects of the ADP. Referrals to the ADP must be approved by the executive director, who must be satisfied that the referral is in the public interest. Lawyers will only be eligible so long as their participation is, and remains, in the public interest.
  2. Confidentiality: ADP records will be kept confidential and separate from other Law Society programs and processes, including from the regular disciplinary process. For clarity, health information disclosed as part of the ADP is kept strictly confidential, and is not shared outside of the ADP, except with the explicit consent of the participating Lawyer or where disclosure is required by law.
  3. No risk: If a lawyer ceases to be eligible to continue in the ADP, the matter will be returned to the investigation stage of the regular disciplinary process and both the lawyer and the Law Society will be in the same position as they would have been had the ADP never been attempted.
  4. Voluntary: Participation in the ADP is voluntary, and eligible and participating lawyers will be provided with sufficient information at every stage of the ADP to make informed decisions about their participation.

Complainant involvement

Complainants will be informed if their complaint is referred to the ADP. They will also have an opportunity to provide a statement regarding any impact that the lawyer’s alleged misconduct has had on them. This statement may factor into the terms of any ADP agreement between the lawyer and the Law Society, including any terms related to remediation.

Complainants will also be given notice of the outcome of the ADP – including whether a referral to the ADP was approved, if the lawyer successfully completed the ADP or whether the matter was referred back to the regular discipline process.

To protect the confidentiality of the lawyer’s health information, complainants will not be provided with information obtained in the course of the ADP or the details of the terms of the consent agreement the lawyer enters into to be referred to the ADP, unless the lawyer consents to such disclosure.

ADP stages

There are six stages in a typical ADP file:

ADP flowchart

  1. Concern raised or report received: If a concern has been raised, or a report has been received, indicating that a lawyer’s health issue may have contributed to alleged misconduct, the concern or report may be considered for referral to the ADP. Lawyers under investigation will be provided with information about the ADP, so that they can consider whether the process may be appropriate for them.
  2. Eligibility determined: To be eligible for the ADP the executive director must be satisfied that a referral to the ADP is in the public interest, the lawyer must acknowledge that a health issue may have contributed to the alleged misconduct, and the lawyer must consent to the referral.
  3. Health information collected: The lawyer will be asked to provide health-related information to support eligibility for the ADP. The executive director will use the information to assess whether the referral to ADP is in the public interest and if the lawyer would benefit from the ADP’s remedial approach. Personal information obtained in the process is confidential and will not be shared outside the ADP without the lawyer’s consent or unless disclosure is required by law.
  4. Consent agreement negotiated: If the health information establishes a link between a health issue and the alleged misconduct, ADP counsel — a specialized staff lawyer that supports the ADP — will work with the lawyer to negotiate the terms of a consent agreement. The lawyer and ADP counsel may also negotiate an interim agreement, if it is considered necessary to protect the public.
  5. Consent agreement approved: Once an agreement has been negotiated, it is considered for approval by the executive director. The executive director must be satisfied that the agreement is in the public interest, and sufficiently protects the public from any risk posed by the lawyer’s continued legal practice.
  6. Terms of the agreement are satisfied or matter is returned to the regular process: Once the terms of the consent agreement have been fulfilled, the complaint or report that initiated the referral will be considered resolved. Participation in the ADP, whether successful or unsuccessful, will not form part of the lawyer’s professional conduct record. If the agreement cannot be satisfied, the matter may be returned to the regular disciplinary process.

If there is a dispute as to whether the lawyer has breached or fulfilled the terms of a consent agreement, the lawyer will have an opportunity to appeal the decision to a motions adjudicator at the Law Society’s Tribunal. An appeal must be filed within 30 days of receiving notice of the intention to refer the matter back to the regular process.

Mental health resources

The Law Society supports programs to assist lawyers facing challenges within their work environment and in their personal lives. If you or another lawyer you know is looking for support, you may wish to explore the resources in our Lawyer Well-Being Hub.

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis or has suicide-related concerns, please call 911, or call or text the Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline:

1.833.456.4566 (24/7) 
1.866.277.3553 in Quebec (24/7) 

Text to 45645 (4 p.m. – midnight ET). Text messaging rates apply. French text support is currently unavailable.

If you are looking for other mental health or substance use–related services, you may want to consult with your physician or healthcare professional. The BC Ministry of Health has also compiled a list of available resources in the province, which can be found here.

Background information

For more information, read:

Questions or comments

If you have questions about the ADP, contact Jess Abells, Alternative Processes Program Counsel, by phone at 604.605.5357 or by email to