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Introducing the Practice Management Review Program

The Law Society is mandated to regulate the practice of law and the legal profession in the public interest. Benchers previously approved a strategic plan which prioritized enhancing the Law Society’s regulatory framework, in part through the development of a practice management review program. Such programs exist in other jurisdictions in Canada and have been shown to be effective quality assurance tools.

Benchers have approved a Practice Management Review Program (the “Program”) that will begin on February 24, 2020. It is based on similar programs offered in other Canadian jurisdictions and was developed after reviewing anonymized data collected by the Law Society relating to allegations, complaints, insurance claims and compliance with continuing legal education requirements between 2008 and early 2018. From that analysis, the following trends appeared:

  1. sole practitioners and members working with fewer than 4 other members are more likely to be subject to an allegation;
  2. a member previously subject to one allegation is more likely to be subject to another allegation;
  3. the most common causes of allegations are quality of service, integrity, courtesy and good faith; and
  4. in the last 10 years, matters have been referred to the disciplinary panel on 23 occasions and involved 14 members – half of those 14 members were sole practitioners at the time of the complaint.

With respect to specific practice management issues, the data revealed that

  1. on several occasions a lack of compliance with the accounting rules resulted in a determination that there are reasonable grounds to believe a member has engaged in conduct deserving of sanction and the matter was referred to a disciplinary panel;
  2. the most common causes for insurance claims are failures of systems or procedures, issues with administration including inadequate review or preparation, failures to follow-up and communication issues; and
  3. there may be overlap between members failing to comply with the mandatory CLE requirements and members being subject to discipline proceedings.

These practice management issues appear to arise from inefficient or ineffective practice management. The Program is designed to help members address these types of issues by providing an individualized review of their practice. Members will be selected for a mandatory practice management review and the reviewer will work with the member to identify areas of practice management that can be improved. All members are expected to act in good faith to rectify any concerns arising from the review.

It is anticipated that the Program will help to improve the Law Society’s regulatory framework by ensuring that all lawyers in the Province are providing the highest quality of service to their clients. It is designed to be a proactive and preventative tool for the regulation of the profession and is geared towards advising and assisting members in a supportive manner.

Part XIVA of the Law Society Rules addresses practice management reviews and will come into force on Monday, February 24, 2020. It is important to note that the Program is completely separate from the discipline process and the practice reviews conducted by the Complaints Authorization Committee under Part XIV of the Rules.

If, however, during a practice management review a reviewer sees evidence of professional misconduct or an aspect of a member’s practice that may rise to the level of conduct deserving of sanction, the reviewer will discontinue the review and report his or her concerns in accordance with the Law Society Rules and the Code of Professional Conduct.

For more information, please see the attached list of FAQs. Further information and the text of the new rules will be available on the Law Society’s website on Monday, February 24, 2020. You may also contact the Law Society if you have questions.