If Professional Responsibility Counsel (or the Ethics or Competency Committee) determines that a complaint to the Law Society raises issues of member conduct that appear to be “conduct unbecoming”, the matter will be referred to the Conduct Investigation Committee.
The Conduct Investigation Committee is made up of a panel of Benchers whose job it is to review and investigate each complaint referred by Professional Responsibility Counsel. The committee will consider the information available and determine the appropriate response to the conduct in question. Ultimately, the Conduct Investigation Committee may make one of the following directions to the chair of the Discipline Committee:
Some complaints raise conduct issues that are close to the line of conduct unbecoming. In such a situation, the Conduct Investigation Committee may recommend a Conduct Review.
When a conduct review takes place, the member whose conduct is the subject of review is asked to attend with a Conduct Review Committee to “counsel the member”. This usually entails a face-to-face meeting between the committee and the member to discuss the complaint and assist the member to identify and accept responsibility for the conduct that caused concern, to learn from the complaint and conduct review and to change their conduct to proactively prevent similar situations in the future.
The results of the Conduct Review are reported to the Conduct Investigation Committee. If the report is acceptable, it is then provided to the member and becomes a part of the member’s conduct history with the Law Society. The complainant will receive a summary of the outcome of the conduct review as directed by the Conduct Investigation Committee. The fact situation and outcome are also published anonymously on the Law Society website to inform members and the public of conduct that is inappropriate and close to the line of conduct unbecoming.
If the Conduct Investigation Committee determines that formal charges need to be brought against the lawyer, the lawyer will face a hearing before a Hearing Committee typically made up of a combination of lawyers and non-lawyers. The charges that the lawyer will face are set out in a charging document called a Formal Complaint. The person who made the complaint may be called upon to provide further information in advance of the hearing, or in other cases, to testify in person at the hearing. Discipline hearings are typically open to the public unless it would be in the public interest to close them, for example, in order to protect private (privileged) client information.
For more information on current and past discipline proceedings, please see the following: