Community Certified Lawyer Referral Program


How to protect yourself against unethical legal practices

It is painfully clear that legal consumers in Canada are going to have to protect themselves. The Family Justice Review Committee has assembled a checklist to help Canadian consumers deal with wayward lawyers and other legal professionals.

  • Before you hire a lawyer contact the Community Certified Lawyer Referral Service in your community. -- Before you hire a lawyer, check with us first.  The Family Justice Review Committee is fighting to make consumers in each community aware of who the respectable lawyers are in the community.  You cannot get this information from looking in the Yellow Pages.  By supporting those lawyers in the community who support ethics and accountability you will be helping to put those lawyers with lower standards out of business.

  • File a written complaint with Law Society. -- Even though investigators from the Law Society are painfully slow and often side with their members, consumers are still urged to file a complaint.  This will at the very least allow you to create a paper trail -- the first step to protecting yourself.  If your complaint is the latest in a string of 20 or more against your lawyer, it may finally force officials to take action.  Complaints should be addressed to the Law Society of the Province in which the lawyer is practicing.  In addition, a copy of your complaint should be mailed to the Family Justice Review Committee for filing and requesting a possible investigation.  Through the Committee's Community Certified Lawyer Referral Service, a file is maintained on all lawyers practicing in areas where the Service has been established.

  • Use mediation or arbitration to resolve your dispute. -- If you have a complaint about your legal bill, negotiate directly with your lawyer first. If the dispute cannot be resolved informally, contact the Law Society for information on investigating the charges.  Ask your lawyer to participate in a private or government-run dispute resolution program instead.  The Family Justice Committee can also hear your complaint.  Other sources of mediation may be found in the Yellow Pages under "Mediation" or "Arbitration," or get a referral from your local consumer protection office or court.

  • File a small claims court lawsuit. -- If your lawyer won't negotiate or participate in mediation or arbitration, consider suing in small claims court. If your fee dispute is less than the maximum allowed in the jurisdiction in which the dispute occurred, you can file in small claims court without a lawyer. For more information on how to file a small claims suit, contact your local small claims court.  Local Family Justice Review Committees can provide help to find someone to assist you.

  • File a legal malpractice suit. -- If your lawyer's misconduct caused you to lose your case, you can file a legal malpractice suit. To win, you must first prove your lawyer guilty of misconduct or negligence, then show you were harmed monetarily. If you win, you can receive monetary damages, sometimes including any lawyers' fees you had to pay to bring the suit. For more information on how to file a malpractice suit and for a listing of lawyers in your area that take these kinds of cases, contact The Family Justice Review Committee for your geographical area.

  • Become an activist. -- If you've had a bad experience with a lawyer-run discipline program, you're not alone. Nationwide, the vast majority of all complaints registered against lawyers through Law Societies are dropped, the majority without a proper investigation. The truth of the matter is lawyer-run discipline doesn't work. There's an insurmountable conflict of interest to depend on lawyers to police themselves and as the old saying goes "to put the fox in charge of the chicken coop."   The only way that consumers can make our legal system the most respected in the world is to stop taking business to those lawyers who create disrespect for the system in the first place.