Lawyers may encounter client identification issues at different stages of a client relationship.
Client Identification – Potential Clients
First contact with a client may be when they contact you about retaining your services. To perform a conflict check to determine if you can accept the matter, you must gather sufficient information about the potential client and the other parties in the matter. However, you are not required to comply with the Client Identification Requirements at this stage.
Client Identification – When Retained
As previously discussed, when you are by a client to provide legal services, you must identify your client, unless you fall within the exceptions set out in Rule 1541(3). Refer to Who Must Comply with the Client Identification and Verification Rules? on the previous page for more information about these exceptions.
Client Identification – When Not Retained
In general, client identification is not required when a lawyer provides legal advice without being retained, such as when a lawyer is:
- acting as duty counsel providing legal services as part of a duty counsel program sponsored by a not-for-profit organization (unless the lawyer is involved in a financial transaction),
- at a non-profit legal clinic or legal information line that provides summary legal advice (unless the lawyer at the clinic or legal information line agrees to the ongoing representation of a person),
- providing summary advice over the phone and is not retained in the traditional sense, unless the lawyer charges fees or disbursements in the context of a consultation even if no ongoing retainer subsequently exists,
- acting as a friend of the court, assisting unrepresented parties on their own initiatives, unless the services move beyond the provision of summary legal advice or if the lawyer charges a fee or undertakes to represent an individual on an ongoing basis.
Not Providing Legal Advice
Client identification is not required when a lawyer does not provide legal advice, such as a lawyer who is acting as:
- a mediator who is not providing legal advice or services, or
- a notary or commissioner who is not providing legal advice or services.