The Law Society is responsible for regulating the legal profession in the Yukon. This means that the Law Society must make sure that lawyers in the Yukon maintain a certain standard of practice. If the Law Society receives a complaint about a lawyer’s conduct, it reviews that conduct and decides whether it meets the standard.
A breach of the Rules or the Code, or failure to act ethically and competently might be a basis for a complaint.
For example, lawyers should:
- be honest;
- keep clients informed by responding promptly to telephone calls or letters and completing work in a timely fashion;
- respect client confidentiality;
- not act in a conflict of interest (such as acting against a former client or improperly sharing a business interest with a client);
- safeguard client funds and property; and
- practise in a competent manner.
The Law Society’s role
The Law Society receives complaints about lawyers from members of the public, clients, other lawyers and judges. Once a complaint is received, the Law Society must follow a specific process required by the Legal Profession Act. The Law Society has a duty to respond to all complaints.
In dealing with a complaint about a lawyer, the Law Society must in general:
- protect the public;
- be accountable for the actions of its members (i.e. the lawyers); and
- decide if there is a basis for the complaint.
THE COMPLAINT PROCESS
How you can make a complaint:
- Complete the appropriate complaint form found below.
- Include copies of documents related to your complaint.
- Make sure that your current address, phone number and email are on the form so that the Law Society can contact you if more information is needed and when a decision is made.
- All of the information you provide will be sent to the lawyer. The lawyer can then respond to your complaint.
What the Law Society does:
- The Law Society sends a letter to you to say that your complaint has been received.
- The Chair of the Discipline Committee, who is responsible for administering the complaint, sends the information to the lawyer and gets the lawyer’s response.
- The Chair reviews the complaint and the lawyer’s response.
- The Chair can direct the complaint be dismissed or order an investigation. If the Chair decides the complaint be dismissed at this stage you may appeal this decision to the Law Society.
- If the Chair decides more information is needed before a decision can be made, he or she may order an investigation. An investigator is hired. The investigator collects information through interviews and documents and prepares a report for the Chair. The investigator has broad powers of investigation.
- The Chair decides what further action, if any, will be taken based on the investigator’s report. The Chair may:
- direct that no further action be taken;
- direct a further investigation;
- refer the matter to two members of the Discipline Committee for review; or
- direct that a hearing be conducted if there are serious concerns or breaches of the lawyer’s obligations.
- You are advised of the decision by the Law Society. You may appeal a decision that no further action be taken.
- A formal disciplinary hearing, before a panel of lawyers and a public non-lawyer representative, and open to the public, may result in a finding that a lawyer’s conduct is deserving of censure. This is conduct that is not in the public interest, that harms the legal profession or that does not meet the standards in the Code of Professional Conduct. Penalties can include a reprimand, suspension, conditions imposed upon the lawyer’s practice or disbarment, depending on the seriousness of the matter.
How long does the process take?
Law Society Rules require the lawyer and investigator to take actions promptly. A complaint is often finalized within six months, but extensions can be granted if necessary. More complex cases may take longer.
What the Law Society cannot do.
The Law Society does not have the authority to:
- give legal advice;
- pay compensation;
- change the decision of a court;
- insist that a lawyer take a case, remain on or withdraw from a case or take specific action in a case;
- find that a lawyer was negligent;
- address complaints about a Judge; or
- review or change a lawyer’s fees or billings. If you have a complaint about your lawyer’s bill, contact the Clerk of the Yukon Supreme Court. The Clerk is located at the Court Registry, Law Courts Building at 2130 – 2nd Avenue, Whitehorse or call 867- 667-5441.
Lawyer Negligence (saying that your lawyer made a mistake)
Your complaint to the Law Society regarding a lawyer’s conduct does not amount to your making a claim against that lawyer with respect to potential negligence on their part.
The Law Society cannot pay you money or make a lawyer pay you money because of the lawyer’s mistake.
If you believe that your lawyer was negligent, you may wish to seek legal advice about your options, bearing in mind that limitation periods exist after which you will not be able to pursue your claim.
Contact the Law Society Executive Director at 867-668-4231 or email email@example.com.