The Law Society of Upper Canada
|Motto||"Let right prevail."|
|Purpose||advocate and public voice, educator and network|
|Website||Law Society of Upper Canada|
The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) (French: Le Barreau du Haut-Canada) is responsible for the self-regulation of lawyers and paralegals in the Canadian province of Ontario. Founded in 1797, the motto of the Society is "Let Right Prevail." On its website, the Law Society states it "has a duty to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario, and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner."
History and function
The Law Society was created in 1797 to regulate the legal profession in the British colony of Upper Canada. The Law Society has continued to retain its original name, even though Upper Canada ceased to exist as a political entity in 1841. The Society governed the legal profession in the coterminous Canada West from 1841 to 1867, and in Ontario since confederation in 1867.
The Law Society of Upper Canada's creation by an act of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada came some 20 years before the earliest such self-governing association in any other Canadian province or territory. Its creation was an innovation in the English-speaking world and it became the model for law societies across Canada and the United States. It is one of the oldest Law Societies in the English-speaking world.
In 1994, the Law Society affirmed its role by adopting this Role Statement: "The Law Society of Upper Canada exists to govern the legal profession in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct, and upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession, for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law."
The Law Society regulates more than 44,000 lawyers (barristers and solicitors) in Ontario. It is responsible for ensuring that lawyers are both ethical and competent. The Society has the power to set standards for admission into the profession. It is empowered to discipline lawyers who violate those standards. Available sanctions range from admonitions to disbarment. It is based in Toronto, at Osgoode Hall.
Effective May 1, 2007, as a result of amendments to Ontario's Law Society Act, the Law Society regulates more than 4,200 paralegal licensees in Ontario. Paralegals are licensed to provide limited legal services, such as providing representation before provincial tribunals.
Effective March 8, 2008, the benchers of Convocation, who also serve as adjudicators at discipline hearings and corporate directors at Convocation, voted to begin publishing tribunal decisions wherein impugned members successfully defended themselves at hearings in a going-forward basis. The following year, the society voted to add past decisions as well, but confusion has remained. As of 2011, whenever any past decisions were added to legal databases, the addition date was not included, so lawyers previously unaware of the past hiding of decisions remain disadvantaged. Some decisions favouring members made prior to those dates remain private and unpublished, such as the discipline hearing of a current bencher, Clayton Ruby, who is said to have successfully defended against a complaint. In such cases where decisions are hidden, complaints are hidden.
Further, a database of procedural motions has not been made available, again frustrating the efforts of any counsel wishing to properly prepare for hearings or procedural motions. No complete registry of matters heard is made available to the bench, bar or public.
International legal rights bodies have universally condemned justice system actors who fail to make their decisions available, as being corrupt, because no party may predict the outcome of any legal proceeding unless it can perform comprehensive legal research.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that corporate directors may not hold any other duties in an organization. Several Canadian court decisions prevent adjudicators from holding any other positions with a regulator. Under Rule 2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct which pertains to all Ontario lawyers, including the benchers, conflicts of interest and other unethical behaviour are prohibited. The Bencher Code of Conduct also prohibits conflicts of interest.
Under law society policy, bencher misconduct is not investigated and no complaints concerning law society conduct are received until the end of all appeals with regard to any proceeding against a lawyer, even though some matters have run for more than a decade. Nevertheless, many benchers, conflicts-of-interest counsel hired by the law society, its own executives and even staff counsel have been promoted to the benches of the Superior Court of Ontario by the federal Minister of Justice/Attorney General and to the benches of Ontario provincial courts by Ontario's Attorney General. All judges must declare any past indiscretions on their applications to sit on the bench. However no such declarations have ever been made public, strongly suggesting that none were ever declared by judicial applicants.
The society is headed by a Treasurer. He or she is selected by, and from among, the Benchers, who comprise "Convocation" - in effect, the Society's board of directors as the Society is an Ontario Corporation without share capital. All lawyer-benchers are elected by the Society's members, and eight lay Benchers are appointed by the provincial government. Section 12(2) of the Law Society Act, R.S.O. 1990, provides that Ontario's Attorney General is a Bencher of convocation while Section 13(1) provides that the Attorney General is "Guardian of the Public Interest" and, as such, may require the production of any document or thing possessed by the regulator. The regulator falls under the supervision of the Ministry of the Attorney General, according to the ministry's web site.
The current Treasurer is Janet E. Minor. The current CEO of the Society is Robert G.W. Lapper. In 2013, the Law Society had more than 500 staff.
Benchers will next be elected in 2015.
- List of Treasurers of the Law Society of Upper Canada
- CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada
- Federation of Law Societies of Canada