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Professional Management

COVID-19 UPDATE: Lawyers seeking guidance on their professional management obligations, including Continuing Professional Development, in the context of COVID-19 should consult the Law Society’s COVID-19 Response FAQs and Frequently Asked Practice Management Questions regarding COVID-19.


  • Disclaimer
    The Practice Management Guidelines (“Guidelines”) are not intended to replace a lawyer's professional judgment or to establish a one-size-fits-all approach to the practice of law. Subject to provisions in the Guidelines that incorporate legal, By-Law or Rules of Professional Conduct  requirements, a decision not to follow the Guidelines will not, in and of itself, indicate that a lawyer has failed to provide quality service. Conversely, use of the Guidelines may not ensure that a lawyer has delivered quality service. Whether a lawyer has provided quality service will depend upon the circumstances of each case.
  • 6.1 Introduction
    As the pace of change and complexity of the legal environment increases, the need to develop, maintain and adapt to changing professional standards is crucial. The Professional Management Guideline highlights the broad range of activities, initiatives and policies lawyers should consider to ensure professionalism. For example, lawyers must comply with regulatory requirements governing continuing professional development, various practice arrangements, and their relationship to students, employees or others. Lawyers may consider a variety of individual or firm-wide professional development initiatives. The Professional Management Guideline is useful in planning or reviewing existing professional management initiatives.
  • 6.2 Continuing Professional Development
    Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is defined as the maintenance and enhancement of a lawyer’s professional knowledge, skills, attitudes and professionalism throughout the individual’s career. It is a positive tool that benefits lawyers and is an essential component of the commitment lawyers make to the public to practise law competently and ethically.
    • 6.2.1 Required CPD

      In each calendar year, lawyers who are practising law must complete at least 12 CPD Hours in Eligible Educational Activities consisting of a minimum of 3 Professionalism Hours on topics related to professionalism concepts and principles and up to 9 Substantive Hours per year. Substantive Hours may address substantive or procedural law topics and/or related skills. Non-legal subjects may also be eligible for Substantive Hours if they are relevant to the lawyer’s practice.

      Effective January 1, 2018, lawyers and paralegals subject to the CPD Requirement must complete the CPD Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Requirement. Lawyers and paralegals must complete a total of 3 Professionalism Hours that focus on advancing equality, diversity and inclusion in the lawyer and paralegal professions between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2020. Each year thereafter, lawyers and paralegals must complete 1 Professionalism Hour that addresses issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. These hours count towards the 3 Professionalism Hours required each year. 

      Lawyers and paralegals should visit the CPD Requirement webpage to determine if they are required to fulfill the above CPD Requirements.  

      Eligible Educational Activities include the following:

      • participating in person, online, or by telephone at live CPD programs and courses that provide an opportunity to interact with colleagues and/or instructors
      • viewing or listening to recorded or archived CPD programs or courses with at least one colleague
      • viewing or listening to archived or recorded CPD or courses without a colleague  or participation in asynchronous, online CPD that prompt responses throughout the learning process, such as requiring participants to respond to questions before they can move to the next module or section (maximum 6 hours per year)
      • participating as a registrant in a college, university, or other designated educational institution program
      • teaching (maximum of 6 hours per year)
      • acting as a judge or coach in a mooting competition
      • acting as an articling principal, mentoring or being mentored, providing coach or advisor support, participating in a coach or advisor program, or supervising a Law Practice Program (LPP) work placement or paralegal field placement (maximum 6 hours per year)
      • writing and editing law-related books and articles (maximum of 6 hours per year)
      • participating in study group sessions of two or more colleagues
      • attending educational components of bar and law association meetings

      Lawyers must complete their CPD Hours each year by December 31 and report using the online Law Society Portal by March 31 of the following year. Lawyers and paralegals are required to keep written confirmation of registration at CPD programs as proof of attendance. Program materials such as agendas, papers, attendee lists and discussion notes should be retained on file until the end of the year following the year in which the CPD program or activity was completed.

      Lawyers should review By-Law 6.1 and the Law Society’s website for more detailed information about the CPD Requirement.

    • 6.2.2 Other CPD

      All lawyers, even those who are not subject to the CPD Requirement, must take steps or undertake activities or initiatives to ensure that they meet the minimum standards of professionalism and competence.

      Depending on their particular circumstances or practice areas, lawyers may consider undertaking professional development, education or training to enhance

      • knowledge of general legal principles and procedures
      • knowledge of the substantive law and procedure for the areas of law in which they practise or intend to practise
      • interviewing skills and techniques for interviewing clients and witnesses
      • legal research skills and methods including paper, computer or internet based research
      • problem solving skills, analysis and ability
      • skill in applying the law to relevant facts
      • writing and drafting skills so as to improve accuracy and clarity of expression
      • negotiation skills
      • knowledge of, and skill in, alternative dispute resolution
      • skill in investigation of facts
      • advocacy skills
      • client service and communications skills
      • practice management skills and procedures, including
        • time management
        • file management
        • financial managemen
      • ability to personally manage their physical, emotional and mental health
      • ability to manage stress
      • knowledge and use of technology in the practice
      • knowledge of professional responsibility requirements contained in the Rules of Professional Conduct ("Rules")  

      Lawyers may consider a broad range of professional development, education and training activities depending on their particular circumstances and requirements. Activities related to lawyers’ work and directed at enhancing competence may include both self-study (e.g. reading or conducting case specific research) and CPD.

      Lawyers should track the number of hours they devote to professional development, education or training through self-study and CPD.

  • 6.3 Education and Training for Non-lawyer Personnel

    Lawyers may consider implementing education and training programs for non-professional law firm personnel such as administrators, administrative assistants, and law clerks to support lawyers’ efforts to meet changing professional requirements, standards, techniques and practices. Lawyers may offer development, education or training to non-lawyer firm personnel to enhance their knowledge of

    • procedural requirements in the area of law practised by the firm or by the lawyer
    • the use of technology
    • client service and communications skills
    • time management
    • financial management
    • office procedures.
  • 6.4 Memberships in Professional Organizations
    Lawyers may consider membership in various professional organizations which offer legal education and training programs and a variety of initiatives which may assist in their professional development and allow for networking and camaraderie amongst members of the local law association.
  • 6.5 Access to Research Facilities

    If lawyers have in-house libraries, they should maintain up-to-date library materials.

    If lawyers do not have in-house libraries, they should consider how they will access current legal material or on-line research available through various legal service providers.

  • 6.6 Practice Management and Maintaining Professionalism in a Changing Environment
    Lawyers may wish to assess and consider, depending on the size of the practice or the lawyer’s individual circumstances, whether they have effective leadership and planning in place to adapt to changing legal or economic environments.
    • 6.6.1 Leadership

      Depending on the size of the practice or the lawyer’s individual circumstances, lawyers may consider activities which assist in

      • building trust among firm members
      • building pride
      • demonstrating leadership character
      • leading results-oriented meetings
      • overcoming common roadblocks to conflict resolution
      • sharing authority and responsibility
      • clarifying roles
      • building support networks through firm teams.
    • 6.6.2 Planning

      To enable lawyers to manage change and plan for the future, lawyers may wish to enhance their knowledge and make use of

      • standard planning principles related to the business of law
      • strategic planning to chart the future of the practice
      • business plans to realize and enhance profitability
      • budget planning from both a fiscal and strategic perspective
      • project planning to manage firm and practice initiatives.
    • 6.6.3 Coaching and Mentoring

      In circumstances where lawyers may be responsible for the performance or productivity of others, lawyers may consider strategies to enhance their coaching or mentoring responsibilities and initiatives. Coaching strategies may include

      • modeling excellence
      • celebrating success
      • generous encouragement
      • use of effective praise
      • constructive criticism.
  • 6.7 Firm Meetings

    Lawyers should consider holding regular meetings with colleagues and firm personnel to

    • keep abreast of developments in the firm
    • monitor the emotional health and satisfaction level of firm members
    • explore the need for professional development or career advancement for firm members
    • promote congeniality among colleagues.

    Depending on their circumstances, lawyers may wish to consider the use of regular
    • partnership meetings
    • staff meetings
    • firm retreats
    • social gatherings for all members.

    Sole practitioners or smaller firms may consider meeting regularly with other comparable small firms on a formal or informal basis to

    • keep abreast of developments in the legal community
    • monitor the emotional health of fellow colleagues in other firms
    • explore the need for professional development initiatives for smaller firms promote congeniality among lawyers in the local legal community
  • 6.8 Making Legal Services Available, Marketing, and Advertising Nature of Practice
  • 6.9 Fees, Records, Insurance and Trust Accounts

    Lawyers shall ensure that they comply with all legal and regulatory requirements. In particular, lawyers must

    • maintain current fee paying, record keeping and filing requirements including payment of Law Society annual fees in accordance with By-Law 5
    • report CPD hours and retain written records in accordance with By-Law 6.1
    • file forms including the Member’s Annual Report in accordance with By-Law 8
    • keep records in accordance with By-Law 9, Part V
    • maintain a trust account, if they receive money in trust or other property from clients, in accordance with By-Law 9, Part IV
    • preserve client property in accordance with Section 3.5 of the Rules.
    • ensure that they maintain professional liability insurance in accordance with By-Law 6.
  • 6.10 Practice Arrangements

    In addition to the legal and regulatory requirements applicable to all lawyers individually, lawyers shall ensure that they also comply with regulatory and legal requirements specific to their practice arrangement.

    Lawyers may include in firm partnership agreements, shareholder agreements or employment contracts, terms to ensure that professionalism, courtesy and good faith are maintained in accordance with Rule 7.2-1 of the Rules particularly respecting client matters when

    • practice arrangements change
    • practice is dissolved
    • there is misconduct by a firm member
    • firm member leaves firm.

    The following additional considerations will apply to various practice arrangements:

    • 6.10.1 Sole Practitioners in Office Sharing or Association Arrangements

      Lawyers practising in various space and or cost sharing arrangements

      • must maintain separate trust accounts
      • absent client waiver, must maintain client confidentiality, within the shared premises
      • must identify and manage potential or actual conflicts of interest arising from the office or expense arrangements.
    • 6.10.2 Sole Practitioners Employing Associates
      Sole practitioners who employ associates may wish to consider reducing the employment contract to writing.
    • 6.10.3 Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships

      Lawyers practising with other lawyers in partnerships may wish to consider reducing to writing the terms of the partnership by way of partnership agreement.

      If the partnership is a limited liability partnership, lawyers shall comply with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements, and, in particular By-Law 7, Part I.

    • 6.10.4 Professional Corporations
      Lawyers practising in a professional corporation shall ensure compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements and, in particular, By-Law 7, Part II. Lawyers may wish to consider entering into a written shareholder agreement.
    • 6.10.5 Multi-Disciplinary Practices or Partnerships

      A licensee may, in connection with the licensee’s practice of law (or in partnership or association) or provision of legal services, provide to a client the services of a person who is not a licensee who practices a profession, trade or occupation that supports or supplements the practice of law or provision of legal services. [By-Law 7, Part III]

      In the event that lawyers’ practices are multi-disciplinary they shall ensure that

      • pursuant to Rule 3.4-16.1 of the Rules, non-lawyer partners and associates observe Section 3.4 in relation to the legal practice and any other business or professional undertakings carried on by them outside the legal practice
      • they comply with By-Law 7, Part III Multi-Discipline Practices
    • 6.10.6 Affiliations

      An affiliated entity is any person or group of persons other than a person or group authorized to practise law in or outside Ontario [Section 1.1 of the Rules].

      An affiliation is the joining on a regular basis of a lawyer or group of lawyers with an affiliated entity in the delivery or promotion and delivery of the legal services of the lawyer or group of lawyers and the non-legal services of the affiliated entity.

      In the event lawyers enter into an affiliation as defined by the Rules, lawyers shall comply with

    • 6.10.7 Inter-provincial Practices
      Lawyers practising in interprovincial law firms shall ensure that they comply with By-Law 4, Part VII.
  • 6.11 Relationship to Students, Employees and Others
    • 6.11.1 Articling and Summer Students

      If lawyers employ summer law students or articling students they

      • shall comply with Chapter 6: Relationship to Students, Employees, and Others, including
        • assuming complete professional responsibility for all business entrusted to him or her and directly supervising staff and assistants to whom particular tasks and functions are delegated [Part I of By-Law 7.1 and Rule 6.1-1].
        • observing the procedures of the Law Society respecting recruitment of articling students and the engagement of summer students [Rule 6.2-1].
        • providing an articling student with meaningful training and exposure to and involvement in work that will offer the student with knowledge and experience of the practical aspects of the law, together with an appreciation of the traditions and ethics of the profession, when acting as an articling principal [Rule 6.2-2]
    • 6.11.2 Supervision of Staff and Assistants

      In accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct and Part I of By-Law 7.1, lawyers shall

      • assume complete professional responsibility for all business entrusted to him or her and shall directly supervise staff and assistants [Rule 6.1-1]
      • not permit a non-lawyer to do the functions listed within Rules 6.1-5, 6.1-6, 6.1-6.1, and 6.1-6.2 and section 4 of By‑Law 7.1.
      • only permit the non-lawyer to do the functions outlined in section 5 of By-Law 7.1 after providing the non-lawyer with prior express instruction and authorization to do so
      • not send out collection letters under the signature of a lawyer, unless the letter is on the lawyer’s letterhead, prepared under the lawyer’s supervision, and sent from the lawyer’s office [By-Law 7.1, Part I, s. 7]
      • not delegate to the affiliated entity or the affiliated entity’s staff any tasks in connection with the provision of legal services without obtaining the client’s informed consent. [By-Law 7.1, Part I, s. 3(2)]
Last Updated: May 25, 2021
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