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The Law Society of Ontario (LSO)

Region: Ontario Answer # 946

The Law Society of Ontario, formerly called The Law Society of Upper Canada, is the governing body of Ontario’s legal profession. The Law Society was formed in 1797 and incorporated in 1822 and is responsible for the education, licensing, supervision and disciplining of Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals to ensure that the public is provided with competent and professional legal services. The Law Society currently regulates, licenses and disciplines approximately 52,000 lawyers and over 9,000 licensed paralegals in Ontario.

Function of the Law Society

The Law Society’s authority to license and regulate lawyers and paralegals is set out by the Law Society Act. The Act states that the Law Society exists to govern the legal profession in the public interest by ensuring that:

  • “all persons who practise law in Ontario or provide legal services in Ontario meet standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct that are appropriate for the legal services they provide; and
  • the standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct for the provision of a particular legal service in a particular area of law apply equally to persons who practise law in Ontario and persons who provide legal services in Ontario.”

Furthermore, the Act includes a number of principles that the Law Society must follow when carrying out its functions, duties and powers, including the duty to:

  • maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law;
  • act so as to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario; and
  • act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

Benchers and Treasurer

The Law Society is governed by a board of directors called Benchers. Benchers are made up of lawyers, paralegals, lay persons (non-lawyers and non-paralegals) and ex-officio Benchers. The Treasurer is the highest elected official of the Law Society. The Treasurer is elected each year at the June meeting of Convocation. Treasurers generally serve two terms.

 

Funding and services

The Law Society is funded through lawyer and paralegal licensing fees. Like many professionals in Ontario, lawyers and paralegals are self-governing. To maintain the privilege of self-governance, the public interest must always be of paramount concern to the Law Society.

Services for the public

There are a number of public services offered by the Law Society, such as:

  • Complaints Services, which receives and responds to complaints about lawyers and paralegals and can culminate in a hearing before the Law Society Tribunal;
  • a comprehensive online directory with lawyer and paralegal contact information;
  • the Law Society Referral Service (LSRS), which provides the names of lawyers and paralegals;
  • a directory of lawyers and paralegals who are certified specialists in specific areas of law; and
  • the Compensation Fund, which helps clients who have lost money because of the dishonesty of a lawyer or paralegal.

To promote access to legal services, the Law Society supports programs such as Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC), Pro Bono Ontario (PBO), Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), and the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO).

Services for lawyers and paralegals

There a number of services the Law Society provides to member lawyers and paralegals to help with continuing professional development, personal development and ways to improving their law practices.  These include:

  • professional conferences, programs and courses to do with the legal profession and specific areas of practice;
  • Mentoring Programs, which match volunteer lawyers with those interested in becoming lawyers, practising lawyers in need of advice, or students-at-law to provide assistance and advice with their careers;
  • the Great Library, an online comprehensive collection of print and electronic resources that provides legal research assistance and instruction; and
  • the Practice Management Helpline, a confidential telephone service which helps lawyers to better understand and comply with the Law Society Rules of Professional Conduct and other regulations. Calls are handled by representatives, and when necessary, passed to counsel who discuss ethical issues, legislation and possible options. The telephone number is 416-947-3315, or toll-free 1-800-668-7380, extension 3315.

 

Continuing Professional Development

In Ontario, the Law Society requires lawyers and paralegals, who are practicing law or providing legal services, to complete 12 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in eligible educational activities every year.

A minimum of three hours must be spent on professionalism topics related to professional responsibility, ethics and/or practice management. Up to nine substantive hours per year may consist of substantive or procedural law topics and/or related skills. Substantive hours may also concern non-legal subjects if they are relevant to the lawyer’s or paralegal’s practice and professional development.

Every lawyer and paralegal practising in Ontario must be a member of the Law Society.

Visit the Law Society of Ontario website for more information.


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