Complaints are reviewed to determine whether the public is at imminent risk and these are addressed on a priority basis. Examples of risk of imminent harm or concerns arising from breaches of the Code of Conduct and the Rules of the Law Society include stealing from trust accounts, breach of undertakings to the Law Society and involvement in mortgage fraud.
Not all complaints referred to the disciplinary process result in the Law Society taking action. We address all information brought to our attention but some matters may fall outside our mandate as the conduct may or may not pose a need for early intervention or discipline. We also may refer a matter for early intervention if we conclude that there is no significant risk and the lawyer would benefit from early intervention resources.
If the Law Society determines that your matter raises a significant risk, your matter will be referred to the discipline process.
A staff lawyer (Conduct Counsel) will be assigned to perform a thorough analysis of all information relating to the complaint in accordance with section 53 of the Legal Profession Act and Conduct Protocol. This is a time-intensive process and complaints are generally addressed in the order in which they are received.
You will receive periodic updates on the status of the matter.
When the review of the complaint is complete, Conduct Counsel may:
- Dismiss the complaint if Counsel is of the opinion that there is no reasonable prospect that the threshold test is not met.
- Refer the matter to the Practice Review Committee and/or the Conduct Committee. The Practice Review Committee addresses any practice management concerns, while the Conduct Committee decides the next step in the discipline process. The Conduct Committee may direct the lawyer to a hearing, but the Conduct Committee also has the authority to dismiss the complaint, direct further investigation or an alternate form of intervention.
The Conduct Committee is made up of lawyers appointed to the Law Society’s Board of Directors (Benchers) and lawyers who volunteer their services to the Law Society. The Conduct Committee’s task is to determine whether the threshold test is met. If the test is met, the Conduct Committee decides the next step in the discipline process. If the test is not met, the Conduct Committee will dismiss the complaint.
When the Conduct Committee recommends a hearing, the Tribunal Office will convene a panel of three adjudicators to hear the matter. The hearing is conducted like a trial with similar rules of evidence.
If a lawyer is found guilty, disciplinary outcomes can include a reprimand, a fine, suspension, disbarment and/or the responsibility to pay for the costs of the hearing.
The Law Society is authorized under the Legal Profession Act to communicate information about the outcomes of hearings.
Citations are unproven allegations, while proven citations are listed on a lawyer’s record and upon written request, will be disclosed to any person.
Outcomes and hearing schedules are available from the Tribunal Office.
The Law Society’s disciplinary process addresses disciplinary issues and does not award compensation to any party, including the complainant.
If you believe your lawyer was negligent, you have the right to seek legal advice with respect to remedies, keeping in mind that limitation periods exist after which you will not be able to pursue your claim.
If you have received legal advice that your lawyer was negligent, or you believe your lawyer may have stolen or misappropriated funds held in trust on your behalf, Contact the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association to make a financial claim.
The Law Society would like lawyers and the public to understand that only certain reasons are accepted for pursuing an appeal of a dismissed complaint. Disagreement with the dismissal is not grounds for an appeal.
If you believe the dismissal of your complaint was unreasonable, you can appeal the decision. Disagreeing with the decision to dismiss your complaint is not grounds for an appeal.
The Step by Step Process: Complaint Dismissal Appeals and the Complaint Dismissal Appeal Form are available to help you with your decision.