Custodianships: When Lawyers Can No Longer Run their Practice

If a lawyer is unable to continue to practise law because of illness, death, retirement, suspension or disbarment, the Law Society may apply to the court for the appointment of a custodian to take over the law practice.

What to do when the custodian contacts you

If your lawyer’s practice is being managed or terminated by a custodian, the custodian will contact you to discuss your file(s). If you are aware that a custodian has been appointed but have not been contacted, email

Your legal matter

The custodian is not able to take over conduct of a legal matter except in urgent or unusual circumstances. If you have an ongoing legal matter, you should tell the custodian and ask for assistance to find another lawyer.

Your files

Your new lawyer can request your file from the custodian. If you do not have a new lawyer, you can arrange to pick up the file at the Law Society or we can arrange for a lawyer in your community to act as the Law Society’s agent to deliver the file. You will have to produce valid photo identification at the time you pick up the file.

If you have lost track of your lawyer and need to locate files, you may ask the Law Society for assistance. Fill out the form on Locate Lost Files and Wills

Outstanding legal fees

If you owe your lawyer money for past legal services, the custodian may not be able to release your files until you have paid those fees. This does not apply to certain original, valuable documents, such as wills.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Role of the custodian

A custodian is a practising lawyer who will either manage or terminate the law practice, depending on specific circumstances. The custodian will typically:

  • take custody of all active and closed files, bank accounts and the accounting records of the practice;
  • contact clients with open files and valuable documents to advise them of the appointment of the custodian and any apparent concerns about their files;
  • act on the clients’ behalf on matters of immediate and urgent concern;
  • assist clients to locate a new lawyer to complete their matters, and deliver the open client files and/or trust funds to their new lawyers or the clients after obtaining written instructions; and
  • ensure that trust funds are properly accounted for and paid out to the appropriate recipients.