Your fees at work: Custodianships

The Law Society regularly highlights how annual practice fees are spent so that lawyers are aware of services to which they are entitled as well as programs that benefit from Law Society funding.

In this issue, we feature the Law Society’s custodianship program.

Back in 2006, the Benchers approved a plan to restructure the Law Society’s custodianship program to realize greater regulatory efficiency. Specifically, instead of retaining lawyers to act as custodians of a lawyer’s practice, Law Society staff lawyers took on the custodianship role.

The change was in response to a sharp rise in the average cost of discipline-related custodianships, as well as the associated audit and investigation costs, along with the need to manage custodianship procedures better and to provide a better link between the custodianship and the audit and investigation functions of the Law Society.

The Legal Profession Act permits the Law Society to apply for a BC Supreme Court order appointing the Law Society as the custodian of a lawyer’s practice. It is then required to designate a staff lawyer, or retain outside counsel, to carry out the duties and functions of the custodian. The designated custodian takes control of all or part of the property of the practice and arranges for the temporary conduct of the practice or its winding up, depending on the terms of the order. The court makes an order appointing a custodian over a lawyer’s practice if sufficient grounds exist — such as following a lawyer’s disbarment or suspension, death, incapacity by reason of illness or the neglect or abandonment of a practice.

Since bringing the program in-house, the Law Society has realized significant savings. Figures for 2011 indicate:

  • the length of time to complete custodianships due to death or disability issues was reduced from a historical average of 24 months to 15 months;
  • the length of time to complete custodianships arising from disciplinary ­action decreased from a historical average of 48 months to 29 months; and
  • 98 per cent of clients surveyed were satisfied with the way their legal matters were handled by the custodian or, in some cases, a locum.

If you have any questions about the Law Society’s custodianship program, please contact Sherelle Goodwin, Manager of Custodianships, at

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