The Benchers approved the implementation of a Practice Management Review Program as part of its commitment to improving the quality of service lawyers in the province provide to their clients and the public. The program is a proactive tool that promotes continued competency by assisting lawyers to become more efficient and effective in their practices. The program helps lawyers recognize possible practice management problems before they become larger issues that result in an allegation, complaint or negligence claim.
A lawyer who participates in the Practice Management Review Program receives a one-on-one review of his or her office management systems. The review will point out any deficiencies and potential issues in the management of the member’s practice and provide suggestions and resources on how to improve them. The goal is to find proactive ways to prevent complaints and insurance claims.
Improving practice management equals practising more effectively and efficiently which can have a direct impact on billing, client satisfaction and the amount of time spent in the office.
No. The reviewer looks for areas of improvement and provides suggestions but the method by which members choose to improve their practice or rectify issues is up to the member.
It is anticipated that reviews will be starting in the next couple months.
No. The discipline process is completely separate from the Practice Management Review Program. Reviewers are not part of the discipline stream of the Law Society and their reports are not provided to the Director of Professional Responsibility. Results of a practice management review will only form the basis of an allegation where the management of the member’s practice appears to rise to the level of conduct deserving of sanction or the reviewer sees evidence of professional misconduct.
There are two ways to be chosen for a practice management review. In the first, the Executive Director of the Law Society directs that a practice management review take place where he or she is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a member may be failing or may have failed to comply with the Law Society Act, 1999, the Law Society Rules or the Code of Professional Conduct.
In order to make that determination, the Executive Director reviews several factors (listed below). These factors are based on anonymized data collected by the Law Society relating to allegations, complaints and insurance claims made against members. Here are the factors the Executive Director will consider:
For more information, see rule 14.01A.
The second way is triggered by a change in association of practice. Members who start practising as a sole practitioner or in a firm with 4 or fewer other members will undergo a practice management review within 12 months of filing their change in association of practice – see rule 14.09A.
Although the process may be similar, members are selected to undergo a practice management review based on the factors outlined in rule 14.01A in order to proactively address any potential problems before they become larger issues. In the case of a practice review conducted by the Complaints Authorization Committee, an allegation against the member has already been filed and is working its way through the discipline process.
The member will meet in person with the reviewer to answer questions about the management of the member’s practice. The reviewer will follow a list of questions to ask and will provide guidance and suggestions for ways to improve the member’s practice during the review. The member will be given a self-assessment questionnaire to complete before the review takes place.
After the in-person review, the reviewer will provide a report to the member and the Executive Director that outlines any deficiencies along with recommendations for improvement. For more information, see rule 14.06A.
If the reviewer finds that there are no areas for improvement or a few minor areas for improvement, the member may be required to confirm that deficiencies have been addressed or the file will be closed. If there are more substantial areas for improvement, the Executive Director may require the member to provide an undertaking to improve or rectify those areas and direct the reviewer to follow-up with the member. If there are serious practice management issues or other conduct that may be deserving of sanction noted in the report, the Executive Director may file an allegation in accordance with the discipline process. See rule 14.07A.
The Director of Practice Management will advise lawyers that they have been selected for a practice management review by mail.
The Law Society will only contact the member that has been selected for a review. That being said, the reviewer may want to speak to other lawyers and staff that work with you so it is highly recommended that you advise others at your firm about the practice review.
Once the review has been completed, the Executive Director may contact one or more partners of a firm under certain circumstances (see below).
The reviewer will note the areas requiring improvement and also that the member undergoing the practice management review does not have control over the systems in his or her report. The Executive Director may then forward recommendations that involve firm-wide systems to one or more partners in the firm.
A practice management review will likely take a full day and may take longer. Members can reduce the time the review takes by completing and submitting the self-assessment questionnaire provided by the reviewer before the day of the review.
The reviewer will look at the management of the member’s practice in general and will specifically review the following areas: time management, file management, financial management, client service, technology and equipment, professional management and personal management. Other requirements found in the Law Society Act, 1999, the Law Society Rules or the Code of Professional Conduct may also form part of the review.
Generally, the reviewer is looking for ways to help the member practice more efficiently and effectively and also to spot areas where the member may be vulnerable to allegations, complaints or insurance claims.
The reviewer is also a member of the Law Society and will maintain strict confidentiality of the member’s files. As noted in the rule 14.11A, solicitor-client privilege shall not apply as against the society or the reviewer to enable the member or others to refuse to produce records, files, documentation or information in their control or possession.
No. The reviewer will provide the report to the member and the Executive Director only. The exception is where it is required by law or part of a discipline proceeding (see rule 14.10A).
No, there is no cost to members.