Home Office

Before committing to a home office, you should consider whether operating a law practice from home is limited by law (e.g. municipal zoning or condominium by-law), whether any physical changes (e.g. renovations) will be needed to accommodate a home office, and whether any other changes to your practice must be made (e.g. to insurance coverage requirements with LawPRO® or your professional liability insurer).  In this context, you will likely need to determine whether you will meet with clients in your home office. If you are contemplating this option, consider how your office may be perceived, including whether a home office will attract your target client and would be convenient for your clients to access, and whether you are comfortable with your clients having knowledge of your home address.

If you choose to conduct your practice from home or to set up a home office for occasional work from home, you must ensure that you are able to meet your obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct (lawyers’ Rules) or the Paralegal Rules of Conduct (Paralegal Rules) and the by-laws to the Law Society Act.

In the context of a home office, you should especially be mindful of your obligations to maintain confidentiality [section 3.3 of the lawyers’ Rules and subrule 3.03 of the Paralegal Rules] and preserve client property [section 3.5 of the lawyers’ Rules and subrule 3.07 of the Paralegal Rules].  Specifically, a lawyer or paralegal considering a home office must ensure he or she has the physical space required for a dedicated home office and, in some cases, may have to take additional steps to control access to the home office or client information.  It is critical that the lawyer or paralegal have privacy while working at home and secure storage for financial records and client files as well as funds and property. This may require restricting access to the home office space while you are working and returning all documents and client information to a secure file storage location when the files are not in use. Measures must also be taken to preserve confidentiality and security of electronic client information, documents, and email viewed or stored on computers in a home office.  This may include password-protection of the lawyer’s computer, segregation of electronic client files from personal files, and encryption of electronic files, particularly if the lawyer or paralegal’s computer is also used by others in the household.

Providing legal services from a home office should be done in a manner that is, and is perceived by the client as, professional. A lawyer or paralegal who cannot accommodate a dedicated home office, and who cannot find a third party provider to supplement any outstanding needs (e.g. for temporary or occasional usage of private office space, mail services, administrative support, etc.), should consider making alternative arrangements for his or her practice.

For a more detailed checklist of considerations for working from a home office, see the Guide to Opening Your Practice for Lawyers or the Guide to Opening Your Practice for Paralegals