Lawyer Conduct and Competence

The Law Society requires that lawyers follow the Law Society Rules and Code of Professional Conduct for BC, and practise law ethically and competently.

Lawyers are expected to, for example:

  • be honest and courteous;
  • keep clients informed, respond promptly to phone calls or letters and work in a timely fashion;
  • respect client confidences;
  • safeguard client funds and property and account for money entrusted to them;
  • maintain adequate knowledge and skills to represent clients effectively, including
    • knowledge of the substantive law,
    • knowledge of the practice and procedures by which that substantive law can be effectively applied, and
    • skills to represent the client’s interests effectively; 
  • not act in a conflict of interest.

A breach of the Rules or failure to act ethically and competently might be a legitimate basis for a complaint. The following list is not exhaustive, but offers examples of the kinds of complaints the Law Society can investigate.

  • Breach of undertaking – An undertaking is a commitment made by a lawyer to another party. Lawyers must fulfill every undertaking they make, and must report to the Law Society another lawyer’s failure to fulfill an undertaking.
  • Conflict of interest – A lawyer has a duty to give undivided loyalty to every client. For example, a lawyer must not represent a client who is acting against another one of the lawyer's clients or former clients.
  • Delay/inactivity – A lawyer must respond promptly to emails, telephone calls or letters that require a response and complete work in a timely fashion. If the lawyer can reasonably foresee delays in providing advice or services, the lawyer should inform the client so that the client can make an informed choice about their options.
  • Transparency regarding fees – A lawyer has a responsibility to disclose to the client at the outset, clearly and transparently, how the client will be be billed for both professional time and any other charges. However, the Law Society does not have the authority to regulate fees and cannot order a lawyer to reduce his or her bill; for more information, see Complaints about Lawyers' Fees.
  • Failure to communicate – A lawyer must keep clients adequately informed so that clients can make fully informed decisions and provide instructions. A lawyer should answer reasonable requests from a client for information, respond to a client’s emails or telephone calls, and keep appointments with a client.
  • Failure to release records – A lawyer should promptly return a client’s correspondence, files, reports, invoices and other such documents on request or at the conclusion of the lawyer’s retainer.
  • Competency – A lawyer has a duty to maintain adequate knowledge and skills to represent clients effectively, including participating in professional development courses and workshops, training programs within law firms, and research and study.
  • Rudeness or threatening behaviour – A lawyer has a duty to provide courteous service to clients.
  • Withdrawal – A lawyer must not withdraw from representation of a client except for good cause and on reasonable notice to the client.
  • Theft – The Law Society will investigate any substantiated allegation that a lawyer has stolen money or property.
  • Criminal activity – A lawyer who is charged with a criminal offence is required to report those charges to the Law Society. If we become aware of a lawyer being charged with a criminal offence, by the lawyer's report or other means, we will open a file and conduct an investigation.