Due to the COVID-19 virus, the Law Society understands that members may face specific challenges in meeting their obligations relating to client identification & verification and the anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules. While we continue to expect that members will do everything possible to meet all their obligations, we recognize that it may be challenging to verify a client’s identity where the member and client are unable to meet in person.
Members are reminded that in-person attendance is not required in order to collect the information needed to identify the client in accordance with the Rules.
Identifying the client means obtaining certain basic information about your client, such as name and address, and identifying any third party directing, instructing or who has the authority to direct or instruct your client. You must obtain this information whenever you are retained to provide legal services to a client, unless an exemption applies. This step can be done over the phone or by video conference. There is no requirement that it be completed face-to-face.
Verifying the identity of a client means actually looking at an original identifying document from an independent source to ensure that your clients and any third parties are who they say they are. You are only required to verify the identity of your client and such third parties if you are involved in a funds transfer activity, that is, you engage in or instruct with respect to the payment, receipt or transfer of funds, and an exception does not apply.
Members are reminded that fraudsters look for opportunities to take advantage of unusual circumstances, such as are being addressed here, and therefore, if a transaction presents too much of a risk, members should decline to act.