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- Returning to Practice
Whether you have taken a few years off to care for children or other family members, to take a sabbatical, or to work outside the legal profession, returning to active practice after an extended hiatus can be daunting.
This guide is intended to help you navigate the reinstatement process. You may also review the Law Society’s practice transition webinars.
Disbarred lawyers and lawyers who resigned their membership while facing disciplinary proceedings should contact Customer Service. They are subject to a special process outlined in Part IV, Division 1 of the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta.
Where to Begin
Once you have decided to make the transition, where do you start? Consider these tasks in the six to eighteen months before your return:
- Explore home/life decisions, such as childcare, transportation, and parking
- Look for informal and formal networking opportunities
- Update your resume and cover letter
- Consider self-assessments, coaching, and re-entry programs
- Talk to other lawyers who have successfully transitioned and ask for their tips
It is also important to ensure that you have current information about the legal industry and relevant substantive law. Consider the following recommendations:
- Ensure that your social media profiles, such as LinkedIn, are up-to-date and highlight the specific value you may bring to a new role.
- Identify your intended practice area, consider finding a mentor and build a professional development plan. Attend continuing legal education events and seminars in the practice area or industry you want to enter or re-enter.
- When you interview, your focus should be on what you bring to the table and the value you add to the prospective employer and their clients. You do not need to defend or excuse your decision to take a hiatus from practice.
Reinstating to active status requires forms, fees and time so it is important to plan ahead.
Applications should be received at least 30 days prior to your intended date of reinstatement. To apply for reinstatement, you will need to submit the following to Membership:
- Application for Reinstatement (Form 4-1.1)
- Application by a Former Judge for Reinstatement (Form 4-2)
- Application by a Former Member for Reinstatement (Form 4-3)
- Reinstatement fee (Fee Schedule)
- Certificates of standing from each governing body to which you belong, in or outside of Canada (excluding Alberta).
Returning to active status is not automatic; you will need to apply for reinstatement if you are:
- active non-practising;
- suspended; or a
- a former member (former judge or a resigned lawyer).
Please note that if you are applying for reinstatement as a former judge or former lawyer and are seeking an active status, we require the Application for Reinstatement (Form 4-1.1) in addition to Forms 4-2 or 4-3. If you are a former judge who is reinstating to an inactive status, you are not required to fill out Form 4-1.1.
If you intend to provide legal services to the public, you must maintain ‘active’ and indemnified status.
Active lawyers pay an annual membership fee (Fee Schedule) and an annual assessment for professional liability indemnity coverage through the Alberta Lawyers Indemnity Association (ALIA). If you are changing jobs or changing your status, and this impacts whether or not you need ALIA coverage, you may need to submit additional documents to Membership.
If you intend to work in-house or with government, your status will be ‘active and exempt’, meaning that you are an active practising member but exempt from the requirement to pay for professional liability indemnity coverage.
Lawyers in Alberta can now opt for part-time status, as part of a pilot program. You may choose this option if you are building or rebuilding a practice, easing back from a leave, taking a first step towards retirement, or simply do not want to work full-time. You can always return to full-time status if your practice or priorities change down the road.
If you choose part-time status, you pay only half the full-time membership fee. The full indemnity levy still applies.
Read the Part-Time Fees FAQ and the Lawyer Status Change Guide for more information.
If you are currently active, you can apply for part-time status directly through the Lawyer Portal by certifying that you meet the part-time requirements.
If you are currently inactive, retired or active non-practising, you should:
- Review the Rules for reinstatement to evaluate the requirements needed to reinstate.
- Submit an Application – see the Reinstatement section above for more information about the required forms.
- Select part-time status through the Lawyer Portal.
Whether you are full-time or part-time, you can accept Locum Connect assignments to explore different practice areas and work settings.
You may maintain active status while also undertaking not to practice, if you pay the full active membership fee. Lawyers may choose this status while they are looking for new employment, are not affiliated with a firm, and do not wish to pay the indemnity premiums while looking for work.
While you hold active non-practising status, you are not permitted to practise law or give legal advice. To apply, you must submit a Non-Practising application online through the Lawyer Portal.
Since you retain your active status, you are required to complete and submit a Member Information Update Form (MIUF). Lawyers must sign into the Lawyer Portal and complete the form before March 15 of each year, during the annual fee billing.
To resume practice, you must submit an application for reinstatement and pay the prorated indemnity fees (Fee Schedule), but you are not required to pay the reinstatement fee.
If you are not practising but want to provide volunteer legal services through an Approved Legal Services Provider (ALSP), you may opt for ‘active, pro bono’ status.
The required membership fee is equivalent to the inactive fee (Fee Schedule). You are not required to pay for indemnity coverage.
To apply for active, pro bono status, submit an Active Pro Bono Application through the Lawyer Portal.
The Legal Profession Act permits lawyers to practise in their personal capacities or through a professional corporation.
Only active members are entitled to hold a professional corporation permit. Lawyers are not required to incorporate to practice law. A professional corporation is merely a tax planning vehicle, and offers no liability protection for the lawyer.
We recommend you seek professional advice from an accountant or tax lawyer to determine whether this option is right for you. While there are potential tax benefits, there are also additional fees and accounting costs associated with filing corporate tax returns and renewal obligations that come with operating a professional corporation.
You must submit an Approval of Articles of Incorporation form and an Application for a Permit Form 8-1 to the Law Society if you wish to practice through a professional corporation.
Permits expire annually and are renewed through the Lawyer Portal.
Lawyers and students must notify the Law Society of any changes to their contact information, including email addresses, business and residential addresses, and phone numbers. By updating your business contact information, you enable the Law Society to communicate with you on a timely basis. Your personal contact information will not be shared with the public.
The Rules of the Law Society of Alberta require prompt disclosure of this information immediately after any changes. Find out more information here on how to report changes to your business and personal contact information.
If you have practiced less than 12 of the 48 months preceding your application, your application may be referred to one or more committees if not approved by the Executive Director delegate. Each committee has the authority to impose practice restrictions or conditions.
The application form requires lawyers to identify when they have been subject to other regulatory or criminal proceedings, have experienced bankruptcy, or are aware of any issues that might affect their competency to practice. Lawyers should review questions 13 through 31 of the reinstatement application. If you respond “yes” to any of these questions on the reinstatement application, you must provide full disclosure and include all official documentation. This includes court documents, bankruptcy discharge documentation and other relevant records.
The Credentials and Education Committee will consider the reinstatement if the application warrants a review of the applicant’s current knowledge of Alberta law and practice.
Additional materials you may want to consider submitting with your application are:
- A Continuing Professional Development Plan (CPD).
- Confirmation or information about any legal education courses that you may have taken or completed prior to your application or that you are currently enrolled in.
- Confirmation that you have reviewed the Law Society’s webinar on “The Goods on Going Solo” if you intend to start a solo practice.
- Confirmation from a mentor demonstrating their support for you in this process.
- Information about your future practice intentions.
Please note that these are just suggestions and do not guarantee that your application will be approved.
Reinstatement applications may also be referred to the Practice Review and Conduct Committees.
Practice Review may become involved where there is reason to believe that a lawyer’s conduct has been adversely affected by substance abuse, that their competence to practice has been adversely affected by mental or physical disability or substance abuse, or where the Executive Director refers the application to Practice Review for any other reason.
The Conduct Committee may become involved if a lawyer has been found guilty of conduct deserving of sanction, if proceedings have been commenced under Part 3 of the Legal Professions Act, or if disciplinary proceedings have been commenced against the lawyer by any other law society.
Once the Credentials, Practice Review or Conduct Committees have reviewed your reinstatement application, they can approve it, approve it subject to pre- or post-reinstatement conditions, or object to the reinstatement. Pre-reinstatement conditions must be fulfilled before the reinstatement can be finalized.
Conditions may include:
- restricting a lawyer to certain practice areas.
- prohibiting a lawyer from certain practice areas.
- stipulating that a lawyer’s practice must be carried on under the direct supervision of another lawyer.
- requiring a lawyer to complete an assessment or submit periodic reports to the Law Society.
Consider finding a mentor to assist you in your return to practice and provide a letter from the mentor confirming their support. If you do not have anyone, you may be able to find a mentor through one of the Law Society’s mentorship programs, Mentor Connect and Mentor Express.
If you plan to return to practice as a sole practitioner or in any other practice arrangement, you are required to contact the Trust Safety Department to obtain approval to operate a Trust Account or an Exemption.
Even if you were previously approved as a Responsible Lawyer and operated a trust account, you must be approved again if reinstated.
If you will be operating a trust account, you must submit an Application to Designate a Responsible Lawyer and Operate a Trust Account.
If you will not be operating a trust account, you must submit an Application to Designate a Responsible Lawyer and Operate a Trust Account.
All lawyers are required to maintain a general operating account.