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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.