2016 has been a year of transition in the Professional Regulation Division (”PRD”), highlighted by an extensive review of the PRD at the direction of the CEO and the recruitment of a new Executive Director for the PRD. As a result of both of these events, the PRD commenced a restructuring process in 2016, which includes both structural and process changes designed to increase efficiencies and the effectiveness of the regulatory process. The key changes can be summarized as:
The new organizational structure came into effect in February 2017, but throughout 2016, steps were taken to streamline processes and increase efficiencies to permit us to more effectively regulate. These changes have already made an impact.
In 2016, our Complaints Services department received 6,313 new complaints and re-opened 74, for a total of 6,387 complaints. Of those 4,833 complaints were referred to our Professional Regulation Division.
2016 marked the first increase increase in the number of new complaints received in PRD since 2013. The number of new complaints received in 2016 was 4.0% higher than the number received in 2015 and 1.1% higher than the number received in 2014. The 4,833 complaints received in PRD were as follows:
|Subjects of the complaints||80% of the complaints were against lawyers
12% of the complaints were against paralegals
The remaining complaints/cases involved non-licensees and lawyer and paralegal applicants.
|Complainants:||69% of the complaints were brought by members of the public;
13% of the complaints were brought by licensees; and
18% of the complaints were internally raised (i.e. the complainant is the Law Society).
These proportions are consistent with past years.
|Issue type||% of complaints received|
|Type: Service Issues
(examples: fail to account, fail to communicate, fail to serve client )
|Type: Integrity Issues (examples: civility, couseling/behaving dishonourably)||Complaints: 46%|
|Type: Governance Issues (examples: fail to cooperate with Law Society, Unauthorized Practice)||Complaints: 17%|
|Type: Financial Issues (examples: mishandling trust accounts, misappropriation, real estate/mortgage schemes||Complaints: 11%|
|Type: Special Applications (examples: capacity, good character)||Complaints: 8%|
|Type: Conflicts (examples: licensee in position of conflict, business/financial relations with client)||Complaints: 7%|
Figures total more than 100% because some complaints raise more than one issue.
All of the proportions are similar to those in previous years with the exception of financial issues. There has been a significant increase in the proportion of new complaints alleging financial issues from 2014 (40%) to 2016 (46%).
Civil litigation, real estate and matrimonial / family law continue to be the 3 areas of law receiving the most complaints.
One significant departure from previous years relates to lawyers who have been in private practice for more than 30 years. In previous years, it was noted that this group received significantly more complaints than would be expected. In 2016, no significant difference was noted.
1 Lawyers practising in firms with more than 26 licensees; paralegals practicing in firms with more than 6 licensees.
A major component of the reorganization of the PRD is more robust, early triage and resolution carried out by a larger Intake & Resolution department. In 2016, the Intake department began working towards this goal, reducing the number of complaints transferred to the investigating departments and closing more complaints than in 2015. Intake staff only obtained instructions on and transferred cases to the investigative departments which they assessed as high risk, serious allegations of misconduct. As a result, in 2016:
Intake’s Inventory at beginning of 2016
New in 2016 + reopened
Complaints closed in intake*
Transferred out of intake
Intake’s Inventory at end of 2016
*How were the complaints closed?
closed – resolved
closed – no further regulatory action
closed – no jurisdition, no response, withdrawn, previously decided or concurrent litigation
In 2016, 2,018 complaints were instructed for investigation2, including:
2Not all cases / complaints require formal instructions to initiate an investigation (e.g. where a licensee is seeking reinstatement; where a summary hearing or interlocutory suspension motion is being sought). Hence the number of instructions to investigate will be less than the number of cases transferred out of the Intake department.
In 2016, investigating staff reduced the inventory of investigations by 17%, from 2,493 complaints at the beginning of the year to 2,064 complaints at year end. This reduction was the result of:
Below is the breakdown of reasons that complaints that were completed in 2016 following an investigation. There was no appreciable difference in the reason for the completion of investigations in the past 3 years.
* Regulatory Meeting, Invitation to Attend, Letter of Advice, practice / spot audit recommendation, undertaking
** Includes discontinued complaints and complaints outside the jurisdiction of the Law Society
The number of new Mortgage Fraud and Unauthorized Practice (UAP) investigations continued to decrease in 2016.
|New investigations in 2016||Completed investigations in 2016||Inventory at the end of 2016|
|Mortgage Fraud||29 investigations involving 50 complaints
(an average of 2.4 per month)
|61 investigations involving 84 complaints||34 investigations involving 57 complaints
(down from 66 investigations involving 91 complaints at the beginning of 2016)
(a 35% decrease from 2014 (155) and a 33% decrease from 2015 (150)
|106 complaints||99 complaints
(a decrease of 12% from the inventory at the beginning of 2016)
When the Law Society closes a case after an investigation, the complainant may request a review of that decision by the Complaints Resolution Commissioner.
In 2016, 445 complaints / cases involving 168 licensees / applicants were transferred into the Discipline department for prosecution. The number of licensee/applicant matters transferred into the Discipline department in 2016 is higher than in any of the previous 5 years and is approximately 8.3% higher than the number received in 20153.
The inventory of matters before the Law Society Tribunal - Hearing Division has steadily increased in the last 3 years. At the end of 2016, Discipline Counsel / Paralegals had an inventory of:
3 Note that the large increase in the number of cases/complaints transferred into the department in 2016 is explained by the receipt of 1 lawyer matter involving just over 100 complaints.
A record number of Notices were issued by the Discipline department in 2016:
The following chart sets out the types of allegations raised in the Notices issued in 2016:
Figures total more than 100% because some complaints/cases raise more than one issue.View Data
While the number of motions for interlocutory suspension / restriction orders has steadily increased in the past five years, the number significantly increased in 2016.
|Interlocutory Suspension/Restriction Motions in 2016 (Authorized by PAC)|
|Authorized By the Proceedings Authorization Committee||Total: 25||2||Seeking Restrictions|
|Issued||Total: 25||2||Seeking Restrictions|
|Completed||Total: 28||6||Restrictions granted
In 2016, final orders were rendered by the Hearing Division in 152 matters. The dispositions in these 152 completed matters are set out in the chart below:
|Matters Disposed of by the Hearing Division||Lawyers||Paralegals|
|Permission to surrender||7||8||9||3||1||0|
|No penalty imposed||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Dismissed / stayed||4||4||5||0||2||0|
|Interlocutory suspension / restriction||11||7||27||3||3||1|
|Licensing (including readmission)||2||4||1||4||7||5|
*There was one hearing in which a conduct application and a non-compliance application were heard together. Both are included in the totals for lawyer conduct and lawyer non-compliance categories. However, the matter is only counted once in the total numbers and the suspension is reflected in the conduct statistics.
Since 2001, the Law Society has completed 123 mortgage fraud prosecutions. The following chart displays the outcomes of mortgage fraud prosecutions in 2016 and since 2001:
|Outcome||Results for Completions in 2016||Results since 2001|
|Lawyer’s licence revoked (disbarred)||2||45|
|Lawyer permitted to surrender licence||2||20|
|Other lesser penalty (e.g. reprimand, fine)||0||2|
With respect to appeals and applications for judicial reviews with Discipline Counsel / Paralegals in 2016:
|Law Society Tribunal – Appeal Division||Divisional Court||Court of Appeal for Ontario||Supreme Court of Canada|
|Matters commenced||12 appeals||4 appeals; 4 judicial reviews||5 motions for leave to appeal; 1 appeal||3 motions for leave to appeal|
|Matters completed||13 appeals||11 appeals; 2 judicial reviews||5 motions for leave to appeal; 2 motions for reviews of leave to appeal motions; 2 appeals||1 motion for leave to appeal|
|Matters active as at December 31, 2016||15 appeals||5 appeals; 2 judicial reviews||1 application for leave to appeal; 1 appeal||2 motions for leave to appeal|
The Monitoring & Enforcement Department (renamed the Regulatory Compliance Department) is responsible for enforcement of orders from the Law Society Tribunals and the Courts as well as undertakings provided by licensees to the Law Society. Department activities include monitoring undertakings obtained at the completion of matters by other departments within the Division, ensuring that bankrupt lawyers comply with the Law Society’s by-laws; enforcing judgments and mortgages obtained by or assigned to the Compensation Fund and responding to regulatory inquiries from the public.
|Monitoring & Enforcement||2014||2015||2016|
|Costs Collected (including Discipline costs)||$324,104||$572,703||$447,945|
|New Undertakings to be monitored||58||63||91|
|New Orders to be monitored||179||152||157|
|Regulatory inquiries received and addressed
(number of licensees involved in inquiries)
The Trustee Services Department responds in situations where a licensee has abandoned his/her practice or has had his/her licence revoked or suspended, as well as situations where a sole practitioner has suffered serious health problems and is unable to continue in the practice of law. Through the use of the Law Society's trusteeship powers, staff carry out the Law Society's mandate to protect the public interest by taking possession of the practice, if necessary, thereby ensuring that client property and interests are protected and that ongoing client matters receive the necessary attention. The department also provides information and assistance to licensees and their personal representatives who are closing their practices. A significant part of the work of Trustee Services staff is responding to specific client-related requests such as the return of a file or responding to information concerning a professional business in trusteeship.
|Trusteeship Orders Obtained from Court||21||23||16|
|Information Services (including Agreements & Directors)||36||40||51|
|Client files retrieved from licensee’s professional business, indexed & preserved||17,559||21,205||17,051|
|Client Requests Completed (including trust distribution)||2,396||2,126||1,446|
For more than 50 years, the Compensation Fund has compensated members of the public who have suffered a financial loss through the dishonesty of a lawyer or paralegal. Clients can apply to the Fund for reimbursement of lost money or property.
Pursuant to the Guidelines for Compensation Fund Claims, the Fund can be used to reimburse individuals up to maximum amounts specified in the guidelines. In 2016, the maximum amount allowed for losses involving lawyers was increased to $500,000.00. For losses involving paralegals, the maximum is $10,000.
|Claims Received:||against lawyers
|Claims Granted:||against lawyers