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Complaints Information for First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) Peoples

All lawyers and paralegals who provide legal services in Ontario must be licensed by the Law Society of Ontario. The Law Society is responsible for making sure lawyers and paralegals act in a professional manner and follow the rules of their profession. The Law Society Act, bylaws and Rules can be found in the legislation and rules section of this website.

One way we do this is by responding to complaints about lawyers and paralegals. Anyone can complain to the Law Society about an Ontario lawyer or paralegal. Some examples of complaints include:

  • delays in responding to communications or delays in the legal process
  • rude or discriminatory behaviour
  • not accounting for or improperly handling money
  • not reporting to clients on their legal matters.


If you have a concern about a lawyer or paralegal, the information below explains how you can make a complaint and how the Law Society will respond.


The Law Society of Ontario’s Complaints Process

You may choose to inform us that you are First Nation, Inuit or Métis at any point during the complaints process.
 
  • How to make a complaint to the Law Society

    Here are the main ways to make a complaint to the Law Society:

    1. Online: Download, complete, and submit a Complaint Form.
    1. By letter: Write a letter to the Law Society and send it to:


    Attention: Complaints & Compliance
    Law Society of Ontario
    Osgoode Hall
    130 Queen Street West
    Toronto, ON  M5H 2N6

    1. In person: Drop by the above address in person with a completed and signed Complaint Form.​​
    1. By phone: First Nation, Inuit and Métis people may be able to make a complaint by phone. In these circumstances, a staff member will listen to you and put your concerns in writing for you. You can find out about this option by calling our toll-free number at 1‐800‐668‐7380 or locally at 416‐947‐3315.


    If you have any questions about our complaint process, you can call and speak to a staff person. First Nation, Inuit and Métis people may call our dedicated toll‐free number: 1‐800‐668‐7380, ext. 3363 or locally at 416‐947‐3363.

    For more information, see How to make a complaint.
  • How we can help if you wish to make a complaint to the Law Society

    We understand that it may be difficult to make your complaint. We have staff who respond to complaints from First Nation, Inuit and Métis people who may be able to provide some assistance.

    First Nation, Inuit and Métis people may call our dedicated toll‐free number: 1‐800‐668‐7380, ext. 3363 or 416‐947‐3363. You can talk to a staff member about your complaint and any difficulties you are having with making your complaint.

    The staff member will listen and provide you with information about submitting your complaint in a manner that works for you. For example, if you have difficulty making the complaint in writing, we can provide you with information about how you can submit a complaint in another format.  

    You can also have another person, such as a family member or trusted friend, submit your complaint to the Law Society for you, as long as they have your permission.
  • Privacy

    Some or all of the information about your complaint will be shared with the lawyer or paralegal and with their representative, if they have one. If you are concerned about this, you can speak to a staff member about it when you make a complaint or you can indicate this in your complaint.

    You may also be concerned that by making a complaint any private information that you shared with the lawyer or paralegal will become public. The Law Society protects private information as much as possible. If you are concerned about this, you can also speak to a staff member about it when you make a complaint or you can indicate this in your complaint.

  • What happens after you make a complaint

    After we receive your complaint, we will acknowledge receipt and provide you with a file number. You may be asked to provide more information to assist the Law Society in responding to the complaint. You may request interpretation services in your preferred language to help you in providing the requested information.      

    The Law Society may respond to a complaint in a number of ways. We may try to resolve it, we may start a formal investigation and, in some cases, we may hold a hearing to address the conduct complained about. We will ask for your perspective on how we can respond to your complaint in a way that best reflects Indigenous values and legal principles. For example, by arranging for, or participating in, a circle. This may be done in addition to our other regulatory responses or it could replace them.

    If you make a complaint, we will keep you informed as steps are taken.  

  • What we consider in responding to a complaint

    When we receive a complaint, some of the things we consider are:

    • whether the Law Society has jurisdiction over the conduct complained about
    • the seriousness of the conduct
    • the circumstances of the complainant
    • the risk the lawyer or paralegal may present to the public   
    • prior complaints about the lawyer or paralegal
    • the circumstances of the lawyer or paralegal.
  • When and how the Law Society may investigate a complaint

    We may start a formal investigation when we receive information raising a reasonable suspicion  that a lawyer or paralegal may have broken the Law Society Act, Bylaws or Rules.

    During a formal investigation, the lawyer or paralegal must:

    • allow the Law Society investigator to enter the lawyer’s or paralegal’s office
    • allow the Law Society investigator to examine any documents relating to the investigation, including client files
    • answer questions from the Law Society investigator.


    The Law Society investigator may also need to interview witnesses.    

  • How we can help during an interview

    If the Law Society starts a formal investigation, a Law Society investigator may want to interview you. We understand that being interviewed by an investigator can be difficult or stressful. We encourage you to tell us what we can do to help you tell us about your experience with the lawyer or paralegal.

    We will interview you in your preferred language. To ensure a smooth interview, we aim to work with translators who are culturally sensitive and respectful.

    You may have a support person with you, such as a family member or a trusted friend, during any part of your interview, as long as the support person is not part of the investigation. For example, a person who was a witness to the events that you are complaining about cannot act as a support person because the investigator might want to communicate with that witness separately about what they saw or heard. You may request an Indian Residential  Schools Health Support Worker for complaints involving the Independent Assessment Process or another process associated with the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

    You do not need to hire  a lawyer or paralegal to represent you during the  interview, but they are welcome to attend if you hire one. The Law Society does not provide lawyers or paralegals to represent complainants or witnesses.

  • Actions the Law Society can take in response to a complaint

    There are a number of different actions the Law Society may take in response to a complaint.

    Close the Complaint Without Regulatory Action
    We may close your complaint without taking any action if: 

    • We don’t have jurisdiction over the conduct complained about
    • The conduct complained about occurred more than three years ago or it’s been more than three years since you learned about the conduct
    • There is not enough information to support your complaint
    • We are already taking regulatory action against the lawyer or paralegal you complained about 
    • There are other bodies or services that would be more appropriate for resolving your complaint.
     

    Close the Complaint With Remedial Regulatory Action
    Our goal is to try to fix the underlying problem, to help the lawyer or paralegal take responsibility for their actions and to make changes needed to avoid a similar situation in the future.

    For example, we may respond by:

    • providing the lawyer or paralegal with regulatory guidance about the conduct in question
    • arranging for another lawyer or paralegal to mentor the lawyer or the paralegal
    • asking the lawyer or paralegal to attend educational programs
    • asking the lawyer or paralegal to participate in counselling or medical treatment
    • inviting the lawyer or paralegal to meet with one or more senior lawyers or paralegals who are benchers (members of the Law Society’s board of directors) to discuss the issues raised in the complaint.
     

    Hold a Regulatory Hearing
    In some cases, the Law Society may hold a hearing before the Law Society Tribunal to address the conduct complained about.    

    The process of a Tribunal hearing is similar to the process in a court hearing. When a hearing is held at the Law Society Tribunal, the person who made the complaint acts as a witness and may be asked to provide evidence by attending the hearing to testify or answer questions.

    The Law Society Tribunal can order a lawyer or paralegal to pay a fine or the Tribunal can impose other penalties such as suspending or removing a lawyer’s or paralegal’s ability to provide legal services.

    If you are asked to participate as a witness, the Law Society Tribunal may be able to provide additional assistance to make the process easier.

    For example, in some cases the Tribunal may:

    • allow you to bring a support person to sit near you while you testify
    • allow you to testify in a manner that would make it easier for you, such as not having to see the lawyer or paralegal that you complained about, or other people, in the hearing room.


    When a witness testifies, both the Law Society and the lawyer or paralegal have an opportunity to ask the witness questions. If the lawyer or paralegal you complained about is represented by another lawyer or paralegal at the hearing, the questions would be asked by that individual.

    If the lawyer or paralegal you complained about is representing themself at the hearing, the Tribunal can order that someone other than the lawyer or paralegal ask you those questions.

    The Tribunal has also adopted procedures to meet the needs of Indigenous participants and integrate Indigenous traditions and beliefs.

    If you are asked to be a witness at a Tribunal proceeding, you are invited to contact the Tribunal Office at tribunal@lso.ca to request further information about these procedures or speak to the assigned Law Society Counsel/Paralegal who is leading the matter.

  • Review by the Complaints Resolution Commissioner

    If your complaint is closed by Law Society staff and you disagree with the decision, and are offered a review of the decision, you may ask for the Complaints Resolution Commissioner to provide an independent review of the decision.

    The Complaints Resolution Commissioner plays a vital role in the Law Society's complaints process.  This role is similar to that of an ombudsperson. The Complaints Resolution Commissioner will review the Law Society’s complaint file to ensure that the Law Society acted reasonably in closing the complaint.

  • Actions the Law Society cannot take

    The Law Society cannot get involved in your court proceedings or legal matters or change a decision of a court. The Law Society cannot provide you with legal advice about the legal matter your lawyer or paralegal was helping you with.

    The Law Society cannot reimburse you through the complaint process for funds lost as a result of the lawyer or paralegal’s conduct. In some cases, you may qualify to be reimbursed by the Law Society’s Compensation Fund which helps clients who have lost money because of the dishonesty of a lawyer or paralegal. See more information about the Compensation Fund.  

See the complaints section of the Law Society's website for more information.
Please note — Disclaimer: The content of this webpage contains legal information that is current to the date it was published. Legal information is not legal advice. You should seek legal advice about your specific legal situation.
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