When your lawyer’s practice is in custodianship

Locate lost files and wills

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 (Legal Profession Act, s. 50) for the appointment of a custodian to take over the law practice.

A custodian is a practising lawyer who will either manage or terminate the law practice, depending on the court order. Usually, a Law Society staff lawyer will be appointed the custodian.

Role of the custodian

The custodian will normally:

  • 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 the clients or their new lawyers after obtaining written instructions; and
  • ensure that trust funds are properly accounted for and paid out to the appropriate recipients.

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).

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

Your new lawyer can request your file, and the custodian will then send the file to the lawyer. If you do not have a new lawyer, in most circumstances 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 owe your lawyer money for past legal services, the file cannot be released to you or your new lawyer until you have paid those fees. This does not apply to some certain original, valuable documents, such as wills.