The following statement was provided to the CBC in response to questions it raised with the Law Society of Upper Canada. It is shared here in the public interest.
The Law Society of Upper Canada governs Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers and paralegals who meet the highest standards of learning, competence and professional conduct. We regulate more than 50,000 lawyers and over 7,700 licensed paralegals under the Law Society Act and its regulations, as well as the Rules, By-laws and Guidelines.
It is always a concern when a lawyer or paralegal contravenes the Law Society Act, its regulations, the Rules or By-laws and fails to act in the public interest. It’s important to note that the number of lawyers and paralegals who commit misappropriation represents a very small fraction of the almost 60,000 legal professionals in Ontario. As part of our mandate to protect the public interest, the Law Society reports to law enforcement where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a licensee or any other person has been involved in criminal or illegal activity. In addition to reports by the Law Society, the Law Society encourages complainants and witnesses to report directly to law enforcement and supports their efforts in doing so.
Public protection is our first priority. We continually evaluate programs and services and are committed to making ongoing improvements to ensure that rules and regulations remain strong and effective. We have introduced improvements to expedite investigations. We have also made enhancements to our independent, adjudicative tribunal as part of our commitment to a hearing process that is transparent, fair and effective.
In 2016, the Law Society increased the Compensation Fund per claimant limit from $150,000 to $500,000 to help further protect the public for claims involving lawyers. Operating since 1953 and funded entirely by Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals, the fund is unique. We provided statistics to the CBC regarding fund grants over the last five years — ranging from $2,253,000 in 2010 to $1,573,060 in 2013 and $3.1 million in 2015. The total number of Compensation Fund grants paid out between 2010 and 2015 with respect to claims involving lawyers is 441 — an average of 88 grants per year.
As part of its mandate to protect the public, the Law Society also offers public services such as:
- Complaints Services, which receives and responds to complaints about lawyers and paralegals;
- A comprehensive online directory with lawyer and paralegal contact information;
- The Law Society Referral Service, which provides you with the name of a lawyer or paralegal who will provide a free consultation of up to 30 minutes to help you determine your rights and options;
- A directory of lawyers who are Certified Specialists in specific areas of law.
The Law Society of Upper Canada encourages members of the public to use our resources by visiting our website at www.lsuc.on.ca.