PRACTICE RESOURCES

OPENING A PRACTICE

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Owning a law practice means both practising law and operating a business. It is exciting and challenging. If you take the time to determine for yourself why opening your own professional business is attractive to you and to write a business plan that creates the professional business you desire, your chance for success will be greatly increased.       


The LSO created the "Guide to Opening Your Practice" to inform lawyers of the steps involved in opening a law practice and to assist them to prepare a business plan. 


Intended for lawyers interested in operating as either sole practitioners or in a small firm, the Guide will be helpful if you are considering or have decided to open your own practice. 

 

 “Copyright in certain content on this webpage is held by the Law Society of Ontario and is reproduced with permission.” 

GUIDE TO OPENING A PRACTICE

OPERATING A PRACTICE

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The LSO has resources that can help you with determining which business Structure might work best for you and what practice arrangements will best serve your needs.


Contingency Planning for Lawyers

Lawyers face the possibility of numerous unexpected interruptions in their law practices. Contingency planning in the event of disability, death or other unexpected periods of absence from practice should be considered as a means of providing peace of mind for loved ones, clients and employees.  The Contingency Planning Guide is a great resource!


Membership Status and Fee Paying Category

Don't forget that you'll still be responsible for paying all fees.  Plus - you'll want to have the right insurance.  

CLOSING A PRACTICE

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There are many circumstances in which you or those acting on your behalf may have to deal with the transfer or closing of your practice: the sale of a practice, a change in career, joining a firm, judicial or other appointment, formal retirement, or sudden illness or death. 


Where the practice involved is a sole proprietorship or a small firm the impact is greater than it would be on a larger firm, as there may be no one available to immediately continue, transfer, or close the practice in an orderly manner.


Your duty of competent representation includes the obligation to take appropriate steps to safeguard your clients’ interests in all circumstances. 


The Law Society of Ontario and LawPRO® have created a Guide to help you plan for and fulfill your professional conduct responsibilities when transferring or closing your law practice.


GUIDE TO CLOSING A PRACTICE

PREPARING FOR A PRACTICE REVIEW

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Each year, about 450 lawyers in Ontario who are in private practice are included in the pool of potential candidates that the Law Society of Ontario will undergo a Practice Management Review.

RESOURCES TO HELP YOU PREPARE

IF YOU ARE SUBJECT OF A COMPLAINT

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Even the best lawyers make honest mistakes or can face a baseless allegation from a client that is suddenly unhappy due to unexpected events or changed circumstances and most of these are resolved at an early stage.  

STRATEGIES TO GET YOU THROUGH

IN THEIR OWN WORDS - BY LAWYERS, FOR LAWYERS

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Coming soon:  Hear from lawyers who have had to appear before the Tribunal and from a Tribunal member.

PRACTICE REVIEWS

BACKGROUND ON PRACTICE REVIEWS

Each year, about 450 lawyers in Ontario who are in private practice are included in the pool of potential candidates that the Law Society of Ontario will undergo a Practice Management Review.


The LSO’s Practice Management Review is designed to identify any practice management issues, which, if neglected, could have an adverse effect on the quality of legal services offered to the public. While the Program may benefit lawyers in private practice by reducing client complaints and negligence claims, it could result the following: The closing of the file; Mandatory follow-up activities to remedy deficiencies; A follow-up review; Proposal Order; Referral to Spot Audit; or Referral to Professional Regulation.


If you have been contacted by the Reviewer, you are able to select a fill day (usually within six weeks) that accommodates both parties where you will be visited by the Reviewer. You will be given information about what to prepare at that time but will likely be asked, at the least, to have your most recent trust reconciliation (trust bank statement(s), detailed trust reconciliation(s), and client trust listing) ready. There is also a lot of information on the LSO site and you can always call them at 416-947-3315 or 1-800-668-7380 ext. 3315.


In short, the Reviewer will be assessing basic practice management systems in your office, focusing on such areas as: Client Service & Communication; File & Financial Management, Technology; and Professional, Personal, & Time Management.

LSO INFORMATION

RESOURCES

If You Are the Subject of a Complaint

The LSO has a comprehensive section on what to do if you are the subject of a complaint which you can link to here. However, the most important thing to remember is: Don’t freak out! 


Even the best lawyers make honest mistakes or can face a baseless allegation from a client that is suddenly unhappy due to unexpected events or changed circumstances and most of these are resolved at an early stage.  In fact, according to the LSO, only about 5% of complaints are ever even referred to the Proceedings Authorization Committee (which then may result in a disciplinary proceeding and hearing).


Regardless of the situation, you will be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint and you will be provided with the substance of the complaint before you are asked to respond.  Also remember that most complaints and investigations are confidential – with the exception being if the LSO is required to issue a regulatory notice, in which case, you will be notified in advance your case will require a regulatory proceeding.


You may want to consider retaining a lawyer.  But even if you do, it is critical that you do respond to LSO communications as failure to do so may subject you to discipline proceedings under the Law Society’s Summary Hearing Process, in addition to any proceedings relating to the original complaint.  You will want to know that discipline proceedings are of public record. 


A few suggestions that may make this process easier on you:


1. Consider discussing the complaint (and your response to the complaint) with a partner, colleague or other trusted advisor;

2. Consider seeking the advice of a lawyer (remember, this is the same advice you would likely offer a friend).   If you use LawPro, contact them immediately.  They are there to help you.  Their website also has some very helpful information.  Also worth noting is that both the Criminal Lawyers’ Association and the Advocates’ Society provide pro bono duty counsel for unrepresented lawyers at sittings of the Proceeding Management Conference.

3. Remember: The LSO’s Member Assistance Program (MAP) is there to help you in times of professional or personal crisis – and even though you may not, in retrospect, think of this as a crisis, it might feel like one at the time. Your MAP affords you access to a full range of 24/7/365 professional, confidential services. 


Trying to figure out when to provide a notice of claim?  

As soon as possible!  If you report a claim and nothing develops, your deductible won’t be triggered and there won’t be any surcharged increase in your premium.  In addition to helpful information, LawPro has an easy link on their site.


Again, all this information and more can be found here


RESOURCES

LSO'S webpage for dealing with a complaint.


LawPro's webpage for dealing with a complaint and filing a claim.