All lawyers who handle trust funds for clients or third parties as part of their practice are subject to rigorous trust assurance standards set out in Part 3, Division 7 of the Law Society Rules (Trust accounts and other client property).

Reporting requirements

Every practising lawyer in BC, subject to certain exemptions, must file an annual trust report. Where there is more than one lawyer at a firm, only one trust report is required for all lawyers of that firm. If you are a practising lawyer but do not maintain a trust account, you still must submit a trust report. You are required to complete Section A of the trust report and an Annual Practice Declaration (APD).

The trust report is designed to be an educational tool for you and your firm to better understand your law firm’s trust accounting obligations. There are two types of trust reports: a self report and an accountant’s report.

A self report is completed entirely by the firm. An accountant’s report requires engaging an external Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) to complete Section C. An accountant's report is required for the first two years after inception of a law firm. Under Rule 3-82, the Law Society has the discretion to require an accountant’s report. This rule permits the Law Society to continue to require an external review of the accounts of any lawyer when warranted. For example, the Law Society requires an accountant’s report if you:

  • formerly filed Section A trust reports and now operate a trust account;
  • terminate your practice during the year and handled trust funds;
  • have a history of low compliance that raises concerns about your trust accounting practices; or
  • have had a compliance audit conducted that identified low compliance with the trust accounting rules.

The Trust Accounting Handbook explains the Law Society Rules concerning the handling of trust funds and demonstrates systematic procedures for accounting of trust funds.

How to file a trust report

The trust report is an online form, due within three months of the firm’s reporting period. At the end of the reporting period, the Trust Assurance Department will email the designated lawyer of the firm instructions to download the Trust Report Filing Notice on the Member Portal. The filing notice will indicate if your firm was selected for an accountant’s report or a self report. The filing notice also provides a new filing identification number needed to access the report. If you log in and see last year’s report, you may be using last year’s filing identification number. Each year, we will provide you with a new unique filing identification number.

If you are required to file an accountant’s report, you will need to engage a qualified external CPA to complete the accountant’s specified procedures section of your report. The CPA must be independent of your firm and licensed to perform audit or review engagements. You will need to log into your report and complete the lawyer’s sections before the CPA is able to access their section. If you have filed two or more trust reports with an accountant’s report, the need for further accountant’s reports will depend on the number and nature of the exceptions noted by your CPA and other areas of concern to the Law Society.

It is important to file your trust report by the due date to avoid suspension of your membership and a late fee assessment.

Log in to complete your trust report