New Conduct Review Task Force invites comment
If you have comments or concerns about conduct reviews as a component of the Law Society discipline process, a new task force would like to hear from you. The Conduct Review Task Force, chaired by Westminster Bencher Peter J. Keighley, QC, is addressing three primary questions in its study:
- What works in the conduct review process?
- What does not work?
- What changes or improvements are needed?
Law Society Rules 4-7 through 4-12 govern conduct reviews. A conduct review is not a hearing, but an informal review carried out by a Conduct Review Subcommittee composed of a Bencher and a non-Bencher practitioner or by two Benchers. When Law Society staff assess and refer a complaint about a lawyer to the Discipline Committee for consideration, the Committee may choose to order a conduct review as a means of further investigating or disposing of the complaint. In many instances, the Discipline Committee may determine there is a conduct issue to address but one that may not warrant a citation.
A lawyer appears at a conduct review personally and may be accompanied by counsel; the complainant may attend all or part of the review with permission of the Subcommittee. The proceeding is otherwise not open to the public. If a complaint giving rise to a conduct review is already known to the public, however, the fact of the review and its disposition may be disclosed under recent rule changes.
A Conduct Review Subcommittee considers any conduct issues and prepares a report and recommendations. It may recommend that the Discipline Committee take no further action on the complaint against the lawyer (although the Subcommittee may recommend that the lawyer take certain steps to rectify a matter or prevent future problems in practice). If the matter is more serious, the Subcommittee may instead recommend that the Discipline Committee issue a citation or refer the lawyer to the Practice Standards Committee. In 2002, the Discipline Committee ordered 33 conduct reviews (40% of all actions taken by the Committee).
Lawyer Ian Sisett of Vancouver raised concerns over the complaints and conduct review process through a proposed motion to the AGM in September, but later agreed to withdraw his motion after the Benchers determined to strike the task force to look specifically at conduct reviews. Mr. Keighley will be joined on the Task Force by Mr. Sisett and by Benchers Ian Donaldson, QC, Michael Falkins and Russell Tretiak, QC and Life Benchers Howard Berge, QC and Jane Shackell, QC.
Lawyers who have served on conduct review panels, counsel who have represented lawyers in the process or lawyers who have undergone conduct reviews themselves, as well as any others in the profession with an interest in the issue, are welcome to relay their comments to the Conduct Review Task Force by November 30 c/o Kathy Copak by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 8th Floor, 845 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 4Z9.