Can I file a complaint for someone else?
Yes, although we prefer that the complaint is filed by the person who was directly affected by the lawyer or paralegal's conduct.
If you are filing a complaint for another person, we may need a signed authorization from him or her in order to proceed with the complaint. Download and complete the authorization form (PDF) and return it with the Complaint Form. (You do not need a file number to complete the authorization form.)
If you hold a power of attorney for the other person, you can include a copy of the power of attorney with the Complaint Form.
What happens after I send in my complaint?
We will send you a letter to confirm that we have received your complaint. The Law Society will then carefully review and assess it.
For us to process your complaint, we will need you to answer any questions we may have, and provide any documents or information we request.
We will tell you what is happening with your complaint. You can expect to receive information such as:
- The name of the person handling your complaint, as well as his or her telephone number and department.
- Ongoing information about the progress of your complaint, major steps in the process and important timelines.
- The outcome of your complaint and the reasons for that outcome, to the extent that we are able to provide them.
If we cannot resolve your problem or concerns, we will also try to give you information about other sources of help.
Will you tell the lawyer or paralegal about my complaint?
To properly and fairly deal with your complaint, we must share some or all of the information about it with the lawyer or paralegal and with his or her representative. This could include copies of documents or information received from you or any other source. Please note that we may also need to share personal information identifying the sources of information (such as names, addresses and telephone numbers).
Are there time limits for making a complaint?
Delay affects our ability to help you, as well as the ability of the lawyer or paralegal to respond to the complaint. You must bring your complaint to us within three years of the date that the problem occurred or the date that you became aware of it. (There are very limited exceptions to this requirement, for example - if the information was not known to you and in the Law Society's view is both compelling and relevant to your complaint; or if the delay in providing the information was caused by proceedings before the Court or an administrative tribunal.)
If you are complaining about a matter that is ongoing, you do not have to wait until it is completed to make your complaint to us. We may not be able to deal with your complaint until the matter is completed, but please tell us about your concerns and we will advise you of next steps.
How long will it take to process my complaint?
We are committed to dealing with complaints quickly, but the time it takes to complete a complaint depends on its complexity and on other factors. You will be kept informed about the progress of your complaint and if we can, we will provide you with an estimated timeline for completion.
Some complaints are closed within a month or resolved within 1 - 3 months. However, if your complaint is complicated, or if it raises serious professional conduct issues, it may take up to a year or longer to complete an investigation.
If there is a discipline hearing, still more time may be needed to complete the matter.
Does the Law Society investigate every complaint?
The Law Society may investigate if we receive information suggesting that a lawyer or paralegal may have engaged in professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee.
We review and assess every complaint we receive but in order to conduct further investigation, section 49.3(2) of the Law Society Act requires us to have a reasonable suspicion that a lawyer or paralegal may have engaged in professional misconduct or conduct unbecoming a licensee. Not all of the information we receive meets that test.
Here are some of the reasons we might close a complaint without further investigating:
- There is not enough information to support your complaint.
- We don't have the legal authority to act on your complaint.
- We are already taking disciplinary action against the lawyer or paralegal you are complaining about.
- You have already complained about the lawyer or paralegal and your complaint was closed.
- The lawyer or paralegal you are complaining about is ill, or not currently in private practice, or living out of the country.
- Your complaint does not raise a concern to the Law Society as regulator, and further investigation would not help resolve your concerns.
- There are ongoing proceedings against the lawyer or paralegal in another forum and there is no compelling reason in the interest of the public for us to proceed.
- There are other resources or services that would be more appropriate for resolving your complaint.
We will always let you know of our decision and the reasons for it.
What are the possible outcomes of my complaint?
Where appropriate, we try to resolve your complaint by working together with you and the lawyer or paralegal to find a solution.
The complaint may be closed after we receive and review it, or after we investigate. If we close your complaint we will tell you that it is closed and give you the basis for this decision.
We may also choose to conclude a matter with a remedial solution, such as providing the lawyer or paralegal with guidance on best practices for file management or client service.
A small number of complaints may result in a formal prosecution, hearing and penalty. We may also report criminal or illegal activity to law enforcement or other regulators. Read our process.
What should I do if I disagree with your decision to close my complaint?
If you disagree with a decision by staff in either the Complaints Resolution or Investigations Departments to close your complaint, you may ask the Complaints Resolution Commissioner for a review.
The Office of the Complaints Resolution Commissioner will perform an impartial review of our decision to close the complaint file. (This is an important function similar to an "ombudsman" and is independent of the Law Society's professional regulation activities.)
A review by the Complaints Resolution Commissioner is not available for complaints that are closed in the Complaints Services or Intake departments.
For more information, visit the Complaint Resolution Commissioner page.
What if my complaint involves discrimination or harassment?
Another option for resolving complaints about lawyers and paralegals is the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel (DHC) program.
The DHC program is available to anyone who may have experienced discrimination or harassment by a lawyer or paralegal. While the Law Society provides funding for the program, the DHC operates at arms-length from the Society. The DHC's services are offered free to the Ontario public, including clients of a lawyer or paralegal, staff of a lawyer or paralegal firm, students, and lawyers or paralegals themselves.
The DHC confidentially helps callers by providing advice about various options, and may also resolve disputes where appropriate.
Where can I find more information?
If you have any questions about how to file your complaint see the Complaint Form (PDF) or contact us.