New initiatives launched to help lawyers reduce complaints
by Timothy E. McGee
In this issue of the Benchers’ Bulletin we launch two new features to enhance how we report on disciplinary matters with a goal to help lawyers mitigate complaints to the Law Society.
For many years now, through the Discipline Digest section of the Benchers’ Bulletin, we have reported on the results of discipline hearings to inform and educate the profession on the most serious breaches of our rules.
However, there has been growing interest in reporting on the less severe examples of misconduct, again to inform and educate. In November 2010, we reported to you that the Benchers had directed the Law Society to begin publishing anonymous summaries of conduct reviews. We do that for the first time in this issue of our news magazine.
A conduct review is a form of disciplinary action. Usually held with two or more Benchers, a conduct review is a frank discussion of the lawyer’s misconduct, during which the Benchers will discuss why the conduct was improper. The Benchers will also consider whether the lawyer understands the issues and has taken appropriate steps to prevent the same or similar conduct from happening again. A conduct review forms part of the lawyer’s disciplinary record and may be a factor in penalty decisions in any subsequent hearings. Turn to page 22 to learn more about the kinds of behaviour that have resulted in conduct reviews.
A second initiative is the Discipline Alert program. This is a multi-pronged strategy to communicate to all lawyers those behaviours that have the potential to result in complaints to the Law Society. Reducing the number of complaints where possible is in everyone’s best interest.
Our first Discipline Alert topic regards civility. By a wide margin, our most frequent complaint is about rudeness. A Law Society hearing panel recently commented that “a lawyer’s communications must be courteous, fair and respectful,” and that a lawyer is to “refrain from personal remarks or references, and to maintain objectivity and dignity.”
Reporting on conduct reviews and complaints are just two of the things we are doing to be proactive in informing and hopefully educating the profession to head off complaints before they arise. As always, we welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.