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Practice Reviews (formerly Practice Audits)

Updated April 1, 2022

Practice Reviews for paralegals (formerly known as Practice Audits) fall under the Practice Management Review process legislated as part of the 1999 amendments to the Law Society Act, ss.41–49 together with By–Law 11 on Professional Competence, and Rule 3.01 of the Paralegal Rules of Conduct.

The Practice Review program for paralegals includes:

  • Random Reviews
  • Focused Reviews

The process for each type of review is the same. The only difference lies in the method of selection. Once selected participation is mandatory.

Random Practice Reviews (formerly Practice Audits)

Reflecting the Law Society's emphasis on quality assurance in service of the public interest, the program is proactive and preventive and designed to support the goals of paralegals to be efficient, effective and competent. All paralegals in private practice meet the selection criteria.

Focused Practice Reviews

Indicia for identifying participants are set out in s. 27(2) By–Law 11. These include both the number and type of complaints and information received in the course of investigations or audits. Licensees experiencing difficulties in relation to their knowledge, skill, judgment, records, systems, office procedures or attention to the interests of clients, may be referred to Practice Review via any of the Law Society's regulatory units.

Mission & Objectives

Reviews are an integral part of the Law Society’s mandate to govern the legal professions in the public interest. Reviews further the goal of quality assurance whenever legal services are provided and legal advice is given to the public.

Reviews are designed to proactively assess the practice management capabilities of a licensee and to identify any deficiencies, which, if neglected, could have an adverse effect on the quality of legal services offered to the public.

Our Counsel, Practice Review provide personalized guidance aimed at helping licensees correct deficiencies with their practice management systems in order to avoid serious non-compliance, competence or misconduct issues. 

Our approach is first and foremost remedial in nature.

Potential Additional Benefits For Licensees

Receiving and implementing personalized guidance on your practice management may:

  • Assist you in identifying efficiencies in the practice
  • Assist you in identifying improvements to client communication and service
  • Assist you in improving client satisfaction
  • Assist you in reducing or preventing client complaints and negligence claims
  • Help sustain interest in and enjoyment of the practice of law

The Process

The Practice Review program is administered and co-ordinated by Law Society staff, and the actual assessment and reporting is completed by one of the Law Society's Counsel, Practice Review (“Reviewer”).

Reviewers are knowledgeable counsel who can provide paralegals with the benefit of their experience from private practice.

If you are selected for a review, you will be contacted by the Reviewer and a date for the review will be determined in conjunction with you.

The Reviewer will provide you with a list of documents and other information that must be available for the Reviewer to assess.

The Reviewer will then meet with you to discuss the practice and will conduct a review of the requested documents and client files. The Reviewer may also speak with office staff or other people who work with you.

Throughout the review you will receive practical advice and feedback. Risk areas will be identified and strategies for remediation will be discussed. In an effort to assist you with prompt remediation of risk areas, matters requiring action are identified during the course of the review. You will also be directed to relevant resources.

For focused reviews, additional attention is given to the underlying causes for complaints and other indicators of poor patterns of practice.

If you are an associate or employee, and deficiencies are noted in practice management systems administered by the Firm's management, these matters will be addressed directly with Firm management.

Areas of review include:

1. Client Service & Communication

  • establishing terms of the retainer
  • managing client expectations
  • following client instructions
  • responding to client communications
  • keeping client reasonably informed
  • replying within a reasonable time
  • handling client complaints
  • client confidentiality
  • business continuity/contingency planning

2. File Management

  • opening/closing file procedures
  • efficient filing system/organization
  • file storage & client confidentiality
  • client intake
  • handling of prospective clients
  • non-engagement letters
  • retainer/engagement letters
  • conflicts and joint retainer management
  • delegation & supervision

3. Legal Knowledge

  • legal principles, procedures and substantive law
  • writing and drafting skills

4. Time Management

  • tickler and bring forward systems

5. Billing/Fees & Disbursements

6. Use of Technology

Possible Outcomes of a Review

  • Closing the file
  • Follow-up activities
  • Follow-up review
  • Proposal for an Order
  • Referral  for regulatory action.

Report & Opinion on Competence

Following the review, the Reviewer prepares a report containing an assessment of the practice, including recommendations for appropriate remedies.

Given the number of engagements annually and the length of the reports, a copy of the report is typically provided to you approximately three months after the Reviewer's attendance. The report will include recommendations for improvements and enhancements to current practice management systems, and recommendations where action is required to ensure that you meet required standards of  competence.

If there are no recommendations made, you will be provided with a final report, a positive opinion on competence will be rendered and the file will be closed.

If there are recommendations made and you are meeting the required standard of competence under the Law Society Act, you will be provided with a final report and a positive opinion on competence will be rendered. You will be asked to provide written confirmation to the Practice Review Department that you have received and reviewed the report and will implement the recommendations made. Upon receipt of your written confirmation, the file will be closed.

In some cases, depending on the nature and number of recommendations made, a follow-up attendance may be required. In that case, you will be provided with an initial report, no opinion on competence will be provided, and a follow-up attendance will be scheduled. The follow-up attendance is largely, but not exclusively, designed to assess the implementation of the recommendations made in the initial report, while providing you with additional feedback and support. You will be asked to provide written confirmation to the Practice Review Department that you have received and reviewed the report and will implement the recommendations made. 

A failure to meet the required standard of competence under the Law Society Act may result in any of the following actions being taken by Practice Review:  the scheduling of additional attendances, the rendering of a negative opinion on competence, the issuance of a Proposal for an Order (pursuant to s. 42(4) of the Law Society Act and s. 31 of By-Law 11), or a referral for regulatory action. 

Terms or Concepts Explained