The Law Society of Prince Edward Island is authorized to regulate lawyers practising in PEI. It is the Society’s responsibility to ensure all lawyers in the province practise ethically and competently and to investigate concerns that they have not. The Society sets standards of conduct, provides ethical advice, provides guidance to lawyers to improve their practices and, when necessary, disciplines lawyers who do not meet these standards.
If you feel a lawyer practising in PEI has conducted himself or herself improperly, you may file a complaint in writing. The Law Society will investigate complaints about a range of professional conduct issues. All complaints are under the jurisdiction of our Code of Professional Conduct, as well as the Legal Profession Act and Regulations.
The nature of your complaint will affect the way it is handled. In some cases, the Society will not be able to assist. The Society does not provide legal services: for example, we cannot provide legal advice, change a court decision or adjust the amount of fees your lawyer has charged you. For complaints about lawyer negligence (saying that your lawyer has made a mistake) or your lawyer’s fee, see the sections on Fee Disputes and Negligence. Also, if you wish to file a complaint against a lawyer practising in one of the other provinces or territories, you must contact that other law society about their procedures.
The Society addresses concerns relating to the rules of ethical and professional conduct. The resolution process may involve mediation, dismissal, investigation by staff or the Complaints Investigation Committee and, in rare cases, public hearings.
Filing the Complaint
Please write a letter naming the lawyer and describing your complaint. We cannot accept complaints by telephone. According to our Regulations, complaints must be filed in writing and we are not permitted to make exceptions.
You may attach copies of any documents you feel are important in order to clearly explain or support your complaint. We cannot promise to return original documents. Please note: we cannot help you write your complaint, nor can we advise you as to what you should write or include. You do not need to quote the provisions or relevant parts of legislation that you feel the lawyer breached.
The complaint should cover the following:
Send your complaint letter or completed form along with copies of any relevant documents to the attention of the Secretary-Treasurer by regular mail or fax. Be sure to sign your complaint.
When we receive your complaint, we will write to you by regular mail to acknowledge receipt.
The lawyer involved will be sent your complaint and asked for a response within 2 weeks (or longer in appropriate circumstances). Once the lawyer’s response is received, a copy will be sent to you. Along with the lawyer’s response, you will be given an opportunity to make additional comments. At this point, you may be satisfied with the lawyer’s response.
If the complaint cannot be resolved, the Secretary-Treasurer will consider all documentary material obtained and determine if further investigation is necessary and then determine if the complaint has merit. Both you and the lawyer will receive a copy of the written decision. In deciding a complaint, the Secretary-Treasurer has numerous options, some of which are:
The Secretary-Treasurer may dismiss the complaint if, in his or her opinion, it is without foundation or merit.
The Secretary-Treasurer may issue advice to the lawyer if the complaint has some merit but does not justify disciplinary action.
The Secretary-Treasurer may refer the complaint to an Investigation Committee. In some cases, further investigation or a hearing will be conducted. A final decision will then be made by whichever committee received the referral.
If a complaint is referred to an Investigation Committee, the committee may be of the opinion that no disciplinary action is warranted. If this is the case, the Committee can dismiss the complaint or issue a caution/warning, advice or a reprimand to the lawyer. The file is then closed. The Investigation Committee can also request a financial or practice audit and impose conditions on the lawyer’s practice.
The Investigation Committee can recommend that the complaint go forward to the Discipline Committee, which sits in a panel of six members, holds hearings that are open to the public to consider charges of professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming a lawyer. Notice of Hearings are posted on our website at least fourteen days before a hearing. A lawyer representing the Society prosecutes the charges. The lawyer who has been charged may also be represented by a lawyer. You may be required as a witness at the discipline hearing but you will likely not need your own lawyer. The Society’s counsel will help you understand the process.
If the Hearing Panel finds the charges against a lawyer to be proven, it can reprimand, fine, impose conditions on practice, suspend or disbar the lawyer. The Hearing Panel generally does not have the authority to order the lawyer to pay any money to a complainant for loss or damage incurred. The Society will inform you in writing of the decision, and publish the decision to other lawyers. Hearing decisions on the merits of the case are posted on the Society’s website within 60 days of completion of the hearing. A public notice is published whenever a lawyer is suspended or disbarred.
If you have other questions or concerns, you are invited to communicate with us by telephone for further explanation. Please remember that we cannot give you legal advice.