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:
- Who is the lawyer? – You must name the lawyer. We do not accept complaints against law firms.
- What did he/she do or fail to do?
- Where did it happen?
- When did it happen? – There is no time limit for filing a complaint.
- Why do you think it happened?
- What do you see an appropriate resolution or remedy?
Make sure to include your full name and contact information, including your full mailing address and telephone numbers.
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.