File a Complaint
Lawyers and Students-at-Law are required to uphold a high standard of conduct in their professional and personal lives.
One of the Law Society's responsibilities is the investigation of complaints regarding the conduct of lawyers approved to practice law in the Northwest Territories.
What you should expect from your lawyer
Lawyers are expected, for example, to:
- be honest and courteous;
- keep clients informed, respond promptly to phone calls or letters from clients;
- work in a timely fashion;
- respect client confidences;
- safeguard client funds and property and account for money clients give to them;
- maintain adequate skills to represent clients effectively; and
- not act when there is a conflict of interest.
A breach of the Rules or the Code, or failure to act ethically and competently might be a basis for a complaint.
This list is not exhaustive, but offers examples of the kinds of complaints the Law Society can investigate.
- Breach of undertaking An undertaking is a declaration of intention made by a lawyer to someone who might reasonably expect to rely on that declaration. Lawyers must fulfill every undertaking they make, and must report to the Law Society another lawyer’s failure to fulfill an undertaking.
- Conflict of interest A lawyer has a duty to give undivided loyalty to every client. For example, a lawyer must not represent a client who is acting against another one of the lawyer's clients or former clients.
- A lawyer must respond promptly to emails, telephone calls or letters that require a response and complete work in a timely fashion. If the lawyer can reasonably foresee delays in providing advice or services, he or she should let the client know in advance, so that clients can make an informed choice about their options. Sometimes matters become more complex. When they do, your lawyer should tell you that.
Transparency regarding fees A lawyer has a responsibility to disclose to the client at the start of the relationship, in a way that is both transparent and that the client can understand, the basis on which the client is to be billed for both the lawyer’s fees and any other charges. In considering a complaint about a lawyer’s account, the Law Society does not regulate fees and cannot order a lawyer to reduce his or her bill.
- Failure to communicate A lawyer must keep clients adequately informed so that clients can make fully informed decisions and provide instructions. A lawyer is also expected to answer reasonable requests from a client for information, to respond to a client’s emails or telephone calls, and to keep appointments with a client, or else provide a timely explanation or apology when unable to keep an appointment.
- Failure to release file/records or send bills A lawyer should promptly return a client’s correspondence, files, reports, invoices and other such documents on the client’s request or at the conclusion of the relationship.
- Rudeness and or threatening behaviour A lawyer has a duty to provide courteous service to clients.
- Withdrawal A lawyer must not withdraw from representation of a client except for good cause and on reasonable notice to the client.
- The Law Society requires lawyers to be honest. Any substantiated allegation that a lawyer has stolen money or property will be investigated.
- Criminal activity When a lawyer is charged with a criminal offence, the lawyer is required to report those charges to the Law Society. The Law Society may also learn of criminal charges against a lawyer from other sources. When the Law Society becomes aware of a lawyer being charged with a criminal offence, the Law Society conducts an investigation.
If you believe your lawyer has been unprofessional, or has or behaved in a manner unbecoming a lawyer, you can file a complaint with the Law Society. All complaints made to the Law Society are taken seriously, and every attempt is made to deal with them in a fair and expeditious manner.
To make a complaint, please complete and sign the Discipline Complaint Form. Describe your complaint using as much detail as possible. Please stick to the facts: avoid personal opinions, non-factual statements and open accusations.
All complaints have to be in writing. The Law Society needs to provide the complaint to the lawyer who is being complained about.
The Law Society staff can help you to complete the form.
After you have provided your form to the Law Society, it will be handled under The Complaint Process.
The Law Society’s complaint process is limited to its members. However, the Law Society has a mandate to protect the public, and the profession, from persons who are not members of the Law Society practicing law in the NWT.
If you believe a person giving legal advice or providing legal services is not a member of the NWT Law Society, you can report them to the Law Society. For more information, please see Unauthorized Practice.