Client Contingency Planning Report by the Law Society of Ontario

The “Client Contingency Planning Report” details proposed amendments to By-Law 7.1 by the Law Society of Ontario, aiming to enhance protection of client interests through mandatory contingency plans for all private practice licensees, which includes solicitors and paralegals. These plans are intended to address potential interruptions in legal services due to the sudden or unexpected incapacity of legal professionals. The rationale for the amendments focuses on mitigating risks such as unattended legal matters and inaccessible trust funds when a lawyer or paralegal cannot continue their practice.

Under the new guidelines, licensees are required to establish a client contingency plan that includes appointing an administrator responsible for their professional business in their absence. This plan mandates maintaining detailed information on client properties, electronic record access, trust accounts, and other essential operational details to ensure continuity.

The role of the administrator is clearly outlined to involve key responsibilities like notifying the Law Society, handling client matters with minimal involvement in actual legal cases to reduce liability exposure, and ensuring the proper management of trust accounts and other critical functions.

To support licensees in complying with these new requirements, the Law Society plans to provide several resources, including a template for the contingency plan, detailed guidance on liability and insurance for administrators, and specific instructions for trust account management. Furthermore, compliance will be monitored through annual confirmations from licensees that their plans meet the set standards, focusing on assisting compliance rather than enforcing punitive measures.

These changes are set to take effect on January 1, 2025, and are designed to safeguard client interests effectively in cases where a licensee unexpectedly becomes unable to fulfil their professional duties.

Read the full article here, or download the PDF of the report.

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