The Law Society has protocols to promote effective handling of complaints about lawyers and paralegals appearing before administrative tribunals, adjudicative agencies and the judiciary.
Both the Judicial Complaint Protocols and the Tribunal Complaint Protocol support the Law Society's mandate to regulate lawyers and paralegals in the public interest and to advance the cause of justice. The protocols are designed to provide a co-ordinated and accountable process to deal with complaints.
All complainants are encouraged to use the Complaints Form.
The Tribunal Complaint Protocol was first introduced in April 2013. Tribunal adjudicators and staff who find they are addressing issues of incivility, inappropriate behaviour and other breaches of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Paralegal Rules of Conduct on the part of licensed representatives may refer incidents of misconduct to the Law Society through the protocol.
The Social Justice Tribunals Ontario Cluster as well as the Environmental and Land Tribunals Cluster have endorsed the protocol and more tribunals are expected to participate in the future.
Although the process for reporting the complaint is through the protocol, the Law Society reviews and responds to a tribunal complaint as it does with all complaints. As with other regulatory complaints, potential outcomes of Tribunal complaints include a number of types of informal resolution and potential disciplinary action - depending on the nature of the complaint. Mentoring will also be available in some circumstances.
The Law Society will provide complainants with periodic status reports and a report on the disposition.
The Judicial Complaint Protocols were introduced in 2009 and provide procedures for Ontario judges and justices of the peace to refer incidents of lawyer or paralegal misconduct in the courts - such as incivility or unprofessionalism - to the Law Society.
Once received, these cases are investigated by the Law Society and the outcomes could include informal resolution or discipline prosecution.
The protocols also enable judges to request that lawyers receive mentoring from a panel of senior members of the bar. Where mentoring is appropriate, a mentor will meet with the lawyer to discuss the conduct in question and assist in his or her development as an advocate.
Law Society and the Ontario Courts have established Civility Complaints Protocols designed to improve civility and professionalism among lawyers and paralegals appearing in court proceedings.
The protocols provide a procedure for judges and justices of the peace to refer incidents of misconduct such as incivility or unprofessionalism to the Law Society. They also provide for a new process whereby judges can request that lawyers receive mentoring from a panel of senior members of the bar. The mentor will meet with the lawyer to discuss the conduct in question and assist in his or her development as an advocate.
The protocols and mentoring process were put in place to address the concern that judges may be reluctant to refer a lawyer's or paralegal's misconduct to the Law Society as the judge may not feel that the conduct is serious enough to warrant disciplinary proceedings. The Law Society may now determine whether to commence disciplinary proceedings or refer the lawyer or paralegal for mentoring.
Examples of unprofessional behaviour that could result in a judicial or tribunal complaint:
- Lack of courtesy and respect
- Rude or uncivil behaviour
- Failure to attend scheduled appearances
- Persistent lateness for scheduled dates (double-booking)
- Sharp practice
- Delaying proceedings, failing to serve clients
- Misleading the court or tribunal
Issue of concern that could result in a judicial or tribunal complaint
- Conflicts of interest
- Breaches of Confidentiality and privilege
- Providing legal services while suspended
- Capacity concerns (illness, drug or alcohol abuse)
- Charging blatantly excessive fees or holding proceedings "to ransom"
- Competence concerns (does not know area of law)
- Unauthorized provision of legal services by a non-licensee.