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Good Character Requirement

What is the Good Character Requirement?

To be licensed as a lawyer or a paralegal in Ontario, the Law Society Act requires that an applicant be of “good character.”  The good character requirement is ongoing, applying to applicants throughout their licensing term.

The good character requirement is intended to protect the public and maintain high ethical standards in the professions by ensuring that persons who are licensed as lawyers and paralegals show respect for the rule of law and the administration of justice and conduct themselves with honesty, integrity and candour. 

How Good Character is Assessed

In the licensing application, an applicant must answer questions that assist the Law Society in determining whether the applicant is of good character. These questions allow applicants to self-report conduct or circumstances that may raise issues about their character. Self-reporting includes providing full and detailed information about the issues and providing any supporting documentation. Please see the Good Character Amendment Form available in the Fees and Forms section of the website to review the good character questions in greater detail. You may also review the list of supporting documents that may be required if you are the subject of a good character investigation here.

If an applicant’s circumstances change after submitting an application, the applicant must immediately notify the Law Society’s Licensing and Accreditation Department to update the applicant’s answers to any of the good character questions, as necessary. A Good Character Amendment Form is available on the Fees and Forms page.

Answering yes to one or more of the good character questions does not necessarily mean that an applicant will be refused a licence.

When an applicant answers yes to one or more of the good character questions, the applicant’s application is reviewed in the good character review process.

The Law Society’s Commitment to Reconciliation in the Good Character Review Process

The Law Society is committed to working toward reconciliation with First Nation, Status, non-Status, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. When reviewing licensing applications, the Law Society applies the principles established by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Gladue and Ipeelee decisions. The Law Society considers the unique systemic and background factors that may have played a part in those incidents to which an applicant’s responses refer. 

The Good Character Review Process

If an applicant has answered yes to any of the good character questions, the application will be reviewed in the Complaints & Compliance department of the Law Society’s Client Service Centre. This department determines whether the issues disclosed are sufficiently serious to warrant further review by the Law Society’s Professional Regulation Division. In most years, between 40-50% of these applications do not require additional review and are promptly returned to the licensing process.   

Applications that are transferred to the Professional Regulation Division are reviewed in the Intake & Resolution department. At this stage, any good character issues are either:

  1. “cleared” on the basis that the issues disclosed do not require additional review and are not sufficiently serious so as to require investigation of the applicant’s character;
  2. resolved by requesting additional information or clarification that allows the issue to be cleared; or
  3. referred to the Investigations department for further review. 

At this point, most licensing applications are either cleared or resolved and are returned to the licensing process.   

If further review in the Investigations department is necessary, the applicant will be notified in writing and will be provided with an explanation for the investigation.

If the good character investigation was initiated as a result of information that the Law Society received from a source other than the applicant, the applicant will be provided with details of that information.

The Investigations department may ask the applicant to provide additional factual information and reference letters, and the applicant will be given an opportunity to provide additional information or explanation about the issue. Third parties may be interviewed, if required. At the conclusion of an investigation, a determination will be made about whether the licensing application should be referred to a hearing, or whether the good character issue(s) should be cleared and the application returned to the licensing process. In making that decision, the Investigations department will consider the facts revealed by the investigation, whether the Law Society can prove the conduct in issue, and, if so, whether it is in the public interest to hold a hearing to explore the issue.

The Law Society Act provides that a licence may only be refused after a hearing by the Hearing Division of the Law Society Tribunal.

Only a very small percentage of applicants are referred for a good character hearing

Additional information is available in the Information Sheet for Subjects of a Good Character Investigation.

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