The governing body for the practice of law in Ontario is the Law Society of Upper Canada. The law society was incorporated in 1822 but first formed in 1797. It governs the education, licensing, supervision, and discipline of lawyers and paralegals. The law society is empowered by the Law Society Act, and regulates the legal profession through its bylaws, Rules of Professional Conduct, regulations and guidelines.
The law society currently regulates, licenses and disciplines over 46,000 lawyers and over 5,000 paralegals in Ontario.
Benchers and treasurer
Benchers elected from lawyers, paralegals, non-lawyers and non-paralegals, and ex-officio benchers govern the law society. The law society’s highest elected official is the treasurer, who is elected annually at the law society’s Convocation.
Funding and services
License fees paid by lawyers and paralegals fund the Law society’s activities. The practice of law in Ontario is a self-governing profession. Protection of the public interest is essential to the preservation of the law society’s continued right to self-govern.
The law society provides several services directly to clients and the public:
- The law society’s Complaints service receives and responds to complaints about lawyers and paralegals.
- The law society maintains a comprehensive, searchable online directory of contact, practice, and licensing information for lawyers and paralegals.
- The law society maintains a public directory of lawyers who are certified as specialists in particular areas of law.
- The law society maintains a Compensation Fund to compensate clients who suffer financial losses due to the dishonesty of a lawyer or paralegal.
- The law society promotes access to legal services by supporting Pro Bono Law Ontario, Ontario Justice Education Network, and Law Commissioner of Ontario.
Law Society Referral Service
The law society operates the LSRS to help members of the public find lawyers. Lawyers who pay an annual fee of $300 are listed in the LSRS’ roster. Individuals who call the LSRS seeking a lawyer are matched with lawyers on the roster according to geographic region and type of practice. Every lawyer who receives a referral through the LSRS provides a free 30 minute consultation to the individual referred. Beyond that 30 minute consultation, it is up the individual to decide whether or not to retain the lawyer.
The Law Society of Upper Canada defines its own role in the following way:
- “Ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct; and
- Upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession; for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.”
Law Society of Ontario