Law Society of Ontario

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Law Society of Ontario
Barreau de l'Ontario (French)
Founded1797; 225 years ago (1797)
TypeLaw society
HeadquartersOsgoode Hall,
130 Queen Street West,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Area served
Official language
Jacqueline Horvat[1]
Diana Miles[2]
AffiliationsFederation of Law Societies of Canada
Formerly called
The Law Society of Upper Canada (1797–2018)

The Law Society of Ontario (LSO; French: Barreau de l'Ontario) is the law society responsible for the self-regulation of lawyers and paralegals in the Canadian province of Ontario. Founded in 1797 as the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC; French: Barreau du Haut-Canada), its name was changed by statute in 2018.


Receipt dated February 5, 1836, for application to the Law Society of Upper Canada issued to John A. Macdonald, the future first prime minister of Canada

The Law Society of Upper Canada was established in 1797 to regulate the legal profession in the British colony of Upper Canada and is the oldest self-governing body in North America.[4] 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 was authorized, although not created, by the Act for the better regulating of the practice of the law, a 1797 statute.[5] Section 1 of the act simply authorized those at the time "admitted in the law and practising at the bar" in the province to form themselves into a "society".[6][7] The 1797 statute allowed the Law Society to impose requirements for admission to the bar of Upper Canada and to test applicants against these standards.[8]

That statute made no express provisions for any other people to become members of the Law Society: but the power to admit others than the existing practitioners was considered to be implied by section 5. Section 5 provided that "no person other than the present practitioners ... shall be permitted to practise at the bar of any of His Majesty's courts in this province, unless such person shall have been previously entered of and admitted into the said society as a student of the laws ... and shall have been duly called and admitted to the practice of the aw as a barrister, according to the constitutions and establishment thereof".[7] Incorporation of the Society occurred in 1822.

On July 17, 1797, at Wilson's Hotel in Newark, Ontario (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), a group of lawyers, including John White, Robert Isaac Dey Gray, and Bartholomew Crannell Beardsley, inaugurated the Law Society pursuant to the 1797 act.[9]

The Law Society's first home was at Wilson's Hotel, then from 1799 to 1832 at various temporary locations at York (Toronto) until Osgoode Hall was built in 1832.[10] The Law Society continued to retain its original name, even though Upper Canada ceased to exist as a political entity in 1841. Throughout the early 1800s, the Law Society imposed increasingly onerous requirements on potential Upper Canadian lawyers, at one point requiring students-at-law to live at Osgoode Hall while they completed their legal studies.[11] Historian Paul Romney argues such licensing requirements enhanced the legal profession's "prestige" in the young colony, as compared to its position in other North American colonies or the United States.[11]

Seal of the Society, 1889

The Law Society was reformed by statute in 1970, under the Law Society Act, 1970.[12] That statute defined the Society as "a corporation without share capital composed of the Treasurer, the benchers, and other members from time to time".[13] Many of the reforms in the 1971 act were inspired by the McRuer report, officially the Report of the Royal Commission Inquiry into Civil Rights (1968), a wide-ranging set of law reform recommendations for Ontario developed under the leadership of James Chalmers McRuer.[14][15][16]

On October 27, 1994, the Law Society adopted a "role statement" holding that it "exists to govern the legal profession in the public interest" and has the "purpose of advancing the cause of justice".[17]

The Law Society faced calls to change the name Upper Canada. Benchers voted to drop the name and replace it with a new one.[18][19] On November 2, 2017, the Society's governing body (Convocation) chose "Law Society of Ontario" as the new name.[20] The name change was made official on May 8, 2018, following amendments to the Law Society Act as part of the 2018 provincial budget implementation bill.[21][22]

In 2017, the Law Society enacted a requirement that licensees acknowledge an "obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion",[23] referred to as a "statement of principles".[23] The requirement was phased in over several months in late 2017.[24] Following a public campaign called "StopSOP", under which a number of benchers were elected who pledged to repeal the requirement,[25] the requirement was repealed in September 2019.[26] Some StopSOP advocates argued that the measure was an example of compelled speech, while opponents argued that acknowledging equal rights was essential.[26][27]


Osgoode Hall stained glass window

The Law Society regulates the more than 50,000 lawyers in Ontario.[28] 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.

Beginning in 1970, pursuant to the Law Society Act, 1970, the Law Society has required that potential licensees demonstrate "good character".[29][30]


Effective May 1, 2007, as a result of amendments to Ontario's Law Society Act, the Law Society regulates more than 8,000 paralegal licensees in Ontario.[28] Paralegals are licensed to provide limited legal services, such as providing representation before provincial tribunals.

Tribunal decisions[edit]

The Law Society Tribunal is an independent adjudicative tribunal within the Law Society of Ontario that processes, hears and decides regulatory cases about Ontario lawyers and paralegals.[31] It began operations on March 12, 2014.[32]

Effective November 16, 2020, Malcolm M. Mercer became the chair of the Law Society Tribunal.[33]


The Law Society is headed by a treasurer. He or she is elected by 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.

The current Treasurer is Jacqueline Horvat (elected on June 15, 2022),[1] and the current CEO of the Law Society is Diana Miles.[2]


Coat of arms of Law Society of Ontario
The coat of arms was confirmed by the Canadian Heraldic Authority on May 15, 2019.[3]
Upon a rocky mount proper a mantle Ermine lined Murrey thereon a beaver couchant proper holding in its mouth a sprig of two maple leaves Or.
Sable on a chevron between two stags trippant in chief and a rose in base Argent barbed and seeded, an open book proper bound Azure edged and clasped Or between two maple leaves Gules.
Dexter the figure of Hercules holding in the dexter hand a club, sinister the figure of Justice holding in the sinister hand a sword erect proper pommel and hilt and with a balance Or suspended from the blade, both standing on a grassy mount Vert.
Let Right Prevail

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Law Society Treasurer". Law Society of Ontario. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Senior Management Team". Law Society of Ontario. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Law Society of Ontario". Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada. Retrieved October 20, 2021.
  4. ^ Brean, Joseph (September 21, 2017). "'It doesn't have the dignity': Law Society of Upper Canada considers changing 'anachronistic' name". National Post.
  5. ^ Moore 1997, p. 15.
  6. ^ An act for the better regulating the practice of the law, 37 Geo III, c 13
  7. ^ a b Riddell 1916, p. 133.
  8. ^ Romney 1995, p. 186.
  9. ^ Moore 1997, p. 13.
  10. ^ "Chronology". Law Society of Ontario. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Romney 1995, p. 187.
  12. ^ Law Society Act, 1970, SO 1970, c 19
  13. ^ Arthurs 1971, p. 11.
  14. ^ Martin, Andrew Flavelle (2016). "The Immunity of the Attorney General to Law Society Discipline". Canadian Bar Review: 434. 2016 CanLIIDocs 153.
  15. ^ Moore 1997, p. 284.
  16. ^ Arthurs 1971, p. 13.
  17. ^ P'ng 2019, p. 86.
  18. ^ Brean, Joseph (September 29, 2017). "Law Society to drop 'Upper Canada' from its name after report calls it elitist and offensive". National Post. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  19. ^ Gallant, Jacques (September 28, 2017). "Law Society of Upper Canada votes to scrap half its name". Toronto Star. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  20. ^ "Convocation votes to change name to "Law Society of Ontario"". The Gazette. The Law Society of Upper Canada. November 2, 2017. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  21. ^ "Amendments to legislation make Law Society of Ontario name change official". CNW Cision. May 8, 2018. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  22. ^ Plan for Care and Opportunity Act (Budget Measures), 2018, SO 2018, c 8, Sch 15, s 2
  23. ^ a b Sealy-Harrington 2020, p. 202.
  24. ^ Sealy-Harrington 2020, p. 205.
  25. ^ Jerome, Amanda (May 6, 2019). "'No one thought this would happen': outgoing benchers react to turnover at LSO". The Lawyer's Daily. Retrieved October 4, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ a b Humphreys, Adrian (September 11, 2019). "Ontario's law society ditches controversial statement on diversity but loses none of its acrimony". National Post. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  27. ^ "Ontario's law society is tying itself in knots over diversity and compelled speech". CBC Radio. September 6, 2019.
  28. ^ a b "Ontario lawyers to combat systemic racism in profession". CBC News. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  29. ^ Arthurs 1971, p. 4.
  30. ^ Woolley, Alice (2007). "Tending the Bar: The "Good Character" Requirement for Law Society Admission". Dalhousie Law Journal. 30 (1): 27–77.
  31. ^ "Home".
  32. ^ "Annual Report 2014" (PDF). Law Society Tribunal. 2014. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  33. ^ Carolino, Bernise (November 23, 2020). "Malcolm Mercer, new Law Society Tribunal chairperson, is known for work in legal ethics". Law Times News. Retrieved October 4, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)


External links[edit]