What does the Tribunal do?
The Law Society Tribunal is an independent adjudicative body within the Law Society of Ontario, which makes decisions based on testimony and documents in a similar way to courts or other administrative tribunals. Our mandate is to process, hear, and decide regulatory cases about Ontario lawyers and paralegals in a manner that is fair, just and in the public interest. The Tribunal is guided by its core values of fairness, quality, transparency and timeliness. Its powers come from the Law Society Act and its rules of procedure are made by the Law Society’s board of directors, which is called Convocation. Convocation also appoints the members of the Tribunal.
What kinds of cases does the Tribunal decide?
Tribunal cases relate to the capacity, conduct, or character of a lawyer or paralegal (licensee) or lawyer applicant or paralegal applicant (licence applicant).
Licensee conduct is the most common subject of a Tribunal hearing, i.e. whether the licensee has violated the ethical rules that govern the professions. A conduct hearing could determine, for example, whether the licensee has mismanaged funds, advertised in a way that is false or misleading, failed to serve clients, or failed to cooperate with the Law Society, among other forms of misconduct.
The Tribunal also hears capacity cases, in which the panel determines whether the licensee is or was physically or mentally incapable of practising.
Licensing hearings are scheduled when the Law Society raises a concern about the character of someone who has applied to be a licensee (a person must be of “good character” to be granted a licence).
An interlocutory suspension or restriction hearing precedes some conduct or capacity hearings, when it is alleged that there is a significant risk to the public that would be reduced by suspending or restricting the lawyer or paralegal’s licence before the case is heard.
In addition to a Hearing Division, the Tribunal has an Appeal Division that hears appeals of decisions that either the licensee/ licence applicant or the Law Society believes were decided incorrectly by the Hearing Division.
For more detailed information about the types of cases the Tribunal hears and decides, see the Guides to the Tribunal Process.
Who makes decisions in Tribunal hearings?
Tribunal members, or adjudicators, make up the panels that hear and decide Tribunal cases, just like judges in the courts. They may be “benchers” (members of Convocation, the Law Society’s board of directors), or appointees (other qualified adjudicators appointed by Convocation). They are lawyers, paralegals, or lay people. Each panel is chosen by the Tribunal Chair, with an eye to representation, areas of expertise, and fairness. Panels can comprise one adjudicator, three adjudicators, or five adjudicators. When there are multiple adjudicators on a panel, one of the adjudicators is assigned to lead the panel as chair.
How do I get to the Tribunal?
The Tribunal office, where the majority of our hearings are held, is located at 375 University Avenue, Suite 402, in Toronto, Ontario. It is a short walk from both the Osgoode and St. Patrick subway stations on the Yonge-University subway line, as well as from the Queen and Dundas streetcar stops at University Avenue.
How do I learn more about Tribunal procedures?
The Rules of Practice and Procedure govern the Tribunal’s Hearing Division and Appeal Division, and include detailed information on how Tribunal cases proceed. These rules, along with other information about the Tribunal, are available on the Tribunal’s website.
What is the role of duty counsel and how do I contact them?
Volunteer duty counsel may be available to assist self-represented parties. The duty counsel programs are independent of the Tribunal and there is no guarantee that duty counsel will be available.
Duty counsel are at the Tribunal office to provide summary advice after proceeding management conferences until 12:00 p.m. on Mondays, or Tuesdays if the Monday is a holiday. The Tribunal can also arrange for duty counsel to phone a respondent or applicant. Email email@example.com to make arrangements.
What is a Proceeding Management Conference (PMC)?
PMCs are conducted by a single adjudicator and are used to manage cases so they move toward hearing in a fair and timely manner. PMCs can result in scheduling a further PMC, scheduling or rescheduling a Pre-Hearing Conference (PHC), scheduling or adjourning a hearing, or directions being given by the panelist. A PMC panelist may also make other case management orders such as setting timelines for the preparation of an agreed statement of facts, a request to admit, an expert report or disclosure, or the examination or cross-examination of witnesses.
Additional information about PMCs can be found in Rule 12 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure.
What is a Pre-Hearing Conference (PHC)?
Although it is called a pre-hearing conference, a PHC can happen at any time before the completion of the hearing on the merits if the parties agree to attend or are directed to attend by a panelist.
The purpose of a PHC is to facilitate the just and most expeditious disposition of a proceeding. PHCs are held in most cases. Often, the Tribunal holds multiple PHCs in the same case. The PHC panelist may canvass the possibility of agreement on some or all of the issues and whether an agreed statement of facts can be prepared, and they may give the parties feedback on their positions. The PHC panelist will often set the hearing date or dates.
At a PHC, the parties can:
(a) identify, limit or simplify the issues in the proceeding;
(b) identify and limit evidence and witnesses;
(c) settle any or all of the issues in the proceeding; and
(d) enter into an agreed statement of facts with respect to all or part of the facts at issue in the proceeding.
All discussions at the PHC are confidential. For that reason, unlike at a PMC, there is no court reporter present. The panelist who conducts the PHC will not be on the hearing panel unless the parties agree that they will allow it. Decisions that are made during the PHC will be included in an endorsement that the panelist will prepare after the PHC. Endorsements are public documents, so the endorsement will not contain any confidential information.
Before the PHC, each party will prepare a memorandum that sets out their position. This will be sent to the other party and to the panelist conducting the PHC. These memoranda are not public documents, and will not be placed in the Tribunal’s file.
All parties to the proceeding, and/or their representatives, are required to participate in scheduled PHCs.
Additional information about PHCs can be found in Rule 22 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure.
How do I request an adjournment?
Adjournments are not granted automatically. The Tribunal has developed a practice direction on adjournments to provide guidance to the parties on how to request an adjournment and to outline the Tribunal’s general approach to adjournment requests.
How can I find out about past Tribunal cases?
At the end of all proceedings and motions within proceedings, the panel makes an order which formalizes its decision. The Tribunal posts all orders that affect the professional status of a lawyer or paralegal, end a proceeding, address the issue of costs or determine some other significant matter. To see a list of all Tribunal orders, click here.
Many orders are accompanied by reasons that explain the panel’s decision. Reasons are usually published approximately three months after a hearing has ended. They can be accessed here, or through the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLii) website.
If you’re interested in researching Tribunal caselaw, the Tribunal posts frequently cited reasons in our Book of Authorities. The Book of Authorities Practice Direction gives further information on how to use the Tribunal’s Book of Authorities.
How can I observe a videoconference or teleconference hearing or PMC?
The Tribunal’s electronic hearings and PMCs are open to the public. To obtain details about how to connect to a particular teleconference or videoconference hearing, contact the Tribunal at 416-947-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I present an affidavit to the Tribunal that has been commissioned remotely?
The Law Society has issued an FAQ on virtual commissioning, found here. It states that as a result of COVID-19, until further notice, alternative means of commissioning such as commissioning via video conference will be permitted and identifies risks that a lawyer or paralegal should attempt to manage when engaging in this practice. Parties may also prepare a witness statement or unsworn affidavit and ask the witness to adopt its contents at the hearing.
What cases are currently before the Tribunal?
The cases currently proceeding at the Tribunal can be found on our website under Case Documents. Upcoming hearings are listed on the Tribunal website as well. Most are held at the Tribunal’s offices: 375 University Avenue, Suite 402, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2J5. For further details about a particular hearing, including confirmation that it is proceeding on the date scheduled, call the Tribunal Office at 416-947-5249, or toll-free at 1-800-668-7380, ext 5249.
How do I access Tribunal files?
Most documents that are a part of a public hearing are public, though it can take some time for documents to be made available, as they must be sorted and filed first. If you have an urgent need for a particular document, you should contact the Tribunal at email@example.com as soon as possible.
If you’re looking for documents from a file that is closed, you must follow the file review process for accessing closed files. To learn more about file reviews, click here.
Can I get certified copies of a Tribunal file?
The Tribunal can certify copies of any public document from a Tribunal file. To obtain a certified copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If the document you need certified is from a file closed more than six months ago, there may be a small charge.
Can anyone watch a Tribunal hearing?
Tribunal hearings are open to the public unless the Tribunal orders otherwise. To read the Tribunal’s guide to visiting a hearing, click here.
What if I’m called as a witness?
The Tribunal’s Guide for Witnesses lays out what is expected of Tribunal witnesses, as well as any information prospective witnesses may need to know before they testify.
Where can I find the current disciplinary status of a lawyer or paralegal?
The Law Society of Ontario’s website has a lawyer and paralegal directory which lists the status of past and present licensees of the Law Society.
Should I contact the Tribunal with a complaint about a lawyer or paralegal?
Complaints must be made to the Law Society of Ontario. After investigating a complaint, the Law Society may decide to file a formal application against a lawyer or paralegal. At that point the Tribunal would hold a hearing to decide whether the allegations have been proven and what order should be made.
For information about the complaints process, click here.
What if I have a complaint about the Tribunal?
Complaints about the Tribunal can be sent to Tribunal Counsel. Please review our complaints policy here.
How are adjudicators appointed?
Benchers are eligible to be appointed to an initial term by virtue of their position. Appointee adjudicators are appointed by Convocation on recommendation of the Chair following a rigorous competitive process. The most recent competition required those applicants chosen for an interview to observe a mock hearing and prepare written reasons, which were then blind scored. Some appointed adjudicators are also appointed outside the competitive process where they have exceptional adjudicative skills and experience, possesses strong familiarity and experience with professional regulation issues affecting lawyers and paralegals and clearly meet the qualifications applied in the formal recruitment process.
Before appointment or reappointment, all adjudicators sign an application in which they make various commitments, and must complete extensive training before sitting on a panel.
Reappointment after each two-year term is made by Convocation based on the recommendation of the Chair, following the adjudicator’s participation in the Tribunal’s performance development process. The adjudicator must apply for reappointment, complete a self-evaluation form and meet with the Chair to discuss his or her form and the Chair’s feedback.
How can I apply to become an appointee adjudicator?
The Tribunal has periodic competitions, which are advertised on this website in the What’s New section. You will also receive notification of competitions if you register for our stakeholder list using the form at the bottom of this page.