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Lawyer's Outside Interests

Lawyer's Outside Interests

When may a lawyer’s personal activities by subject to review by the Law Society?

Lawyers have the right to have outside interests and personal lives just like everyone else. However, there are times where the lawyer's outside interests or personal activities may affect the lawyer's professional life such that the lawyer's conduct may be the subject of a review by the Law Society. The following sections of the Code of Professional Conduct discuss outside interests:

Section 2.1-1 Commentary:

Dishonourable or questionable conduct on the part of a lawyer in either private life or professional practice will reflect adversely upon the integrity of the profession and the administration of justice. Whether within or outside the professional sphere, if the conduct is such that knowledge of it would be likely to impair a client’s trust in the lawyer, the Society may be justified in taking disciplinary action.

Generally, however, the Society will not be concerned with the purely private or extra-professional activities of a lawyer that do not bring into question the lawyer’s professional integrity.

Section 7.3-1 Commentary:

When the outside interest is not related to the legal services being performed for clients, ethical considerations will usually not arise unless the lawyer’s conduct might bring the lawyer or the profession into disrepute or impair the lawyer’s competence, such as if the outside interest might occupy so much time that clients’ interests would suffer because of inattention or lack of preparation.

For example, a lawyer who is charged with and/or convicted of a criminal offence, particularly one involving integrity, may be reviewed despite the fact that the offence occurred in the lawyer's personal life. If such a criminal offence suggested that the lawyer's clients may be at any risk, the lawyer's conduct may be the subject of review. As well, all matters will be reviewed through the lens of public confidence and whether the conduct may bring the profession into disrepute.