Who Must Comply with the Client Identification Rules?

The starting point for understanding your obligations with respect to Client Identification is that the Rules apply to all lawyers who are retained by a client to provide legal services.

Rule 1541(3) sets out the following exceptions:

  • providing legal services to an employer (e.g., in-house counsel),
  • acting as agent for another lawyer who has already identified (and perhaps verified) the client,
  • acting for a client referred by another lawyer who has already identified (and perhaps verified) the client, or
  • 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).

 

In-House Counsel

If you are employed as in-house counsel, you are generally excepted from complying with the rules so long as you are providing legal services on behalf of your employer. If you also provide legal services outside of that employment relationship, then the requirements apply.

 

Acting as an Agent or for a Referred Matter

With respect to the second and third circumstances listed above, while you may not be required to identify (or verify) the client, you must make and keep a record of your efforts to ascertain that the other lawyer identified (and perhaps verified) the client.

When another lawyer retains you as an agent or refers a matter to you, you are allowed to rely on that lawyer’s confirmation that they identified the client, provided that the lawyer is entitled to practice law in another Canadian jurisdiction (or is an advocate or notary in Quebec). Note that only Canadian lawyers are included in the definition of “lawyer”. If the agent or referring lawyer is outside of Canada, you must independently perform the client identification (and perhaps verification).

 

Fulfilling Your Obligations

Any lawyer, associate, or employee at your law firm, including someone who is at another location of the firm, can fulfill the identification and verification requirements. See Rule 1541(2).

When delegating this responsibility to non-lawyer employees, bear in mind that you still have complete professional responsibility for complying with these Rules. When you assign duties, it is your responsibility to educate, supervise, and review the work of staff and assistants. See section 6.1-1 of the Code of Professional Conduct.