Publication of conduct review reports to increase

At their November 5, 2010 meeting, the Benchers resolved to publish summaries of all conduct reviews, unless the Discipline Committee decides otherwise in a particular case. The summaries will continue to be published anonymously, unless the lawyer involved in the conduct review consents to have his or her name made public.

Approximately 60 conduct reviews are held each year. Until now, the Law Society has only occasionally published report summaries when it was decided there was significant educational value for the profession. Hearing reports, on the other hand, are always published on the Law Society’s website.

It is believed that increasing publication will assist the profession in understanding conduct that may lead to discipline as well as help the public better understand the Law Society’s discipline process.

A conduct review is a significant disciplinary measure to address professional misconduct, second only to a public hearing following the issuance of a citation. It is a formal, confidential meeting between a lawyer against whom a complaint has been made and a Conduct Review Subcommittee. The goal is to assist the lawyer in understanding the problems that have resulted from his or her conduct, so as to prevent the same or similar circumstances from happening in the future.

Once the review is complete, the Discipline Committee will consider whether further action is required. The committee will only conclude the matter once it is satisfied the lawyer has an understanding of the serious nature of the conduct and its consequences, and is not likely to be involved in such matters again.

There was considerable debate by the Benchers about the benefits and risks of retaining the privacy and confidentiality of conduct reviews, including whether published reports should identify the lawyer involved. Law Society Rule 4-11 states that a published summary must not identify the lawyer unless that person consents in writing to being identified. Some Benchers felt that the Rules should be changed to allow for identification, saying the public should know that a particular lawyer had undergone a conduct review.

Those who favoured the status quo expressed the view that the open and honest exchange between the lawyer and the reviewers, without the constraints of more formal proceedings, has been generally successful at achieving the intended outcome and that the threat of being publicly named could hinder the free exchange that is core to the conduct review process. A majority of Benchers voted to increase publication but retain the confidential aspect of the conduct review.