In late 2018, The Law Society Tribunal Committee launched a public call for comment regarding new draft Rules of Practice.
The new rules are proposed to replace the current Rules of Practice and Procedure.
The proposed substantive changes include:
The new draft rules are the culmination of the committee’s 18 months of intensive work from April 2017 to November 2018.
In January 2019, FOLA submitted a response to the Tribunal Committee. In that response (which you can view here), FOLA agreed that, in general terms, the proposed Rules appear to provide an approach to achieve these goals. Still, FOLA noted that, upon initial review, we have some concerns about the proposed changes with respect to evidentiary issues. Namely, the apparent reduction in the evidentiary standards to be implemented.
FOLA also argued that, while it is understood that the Tribunal is to protect the public, the process must ensure fairness to all parties and in particular to licensees facing this process. FOLA pointed out that the case law that has developed regarding the rules of evidence are generally well understood and there does not seem to be any compelling reason to move from evidence that would be admitted in a civil proceeding to a lower standard.
Another point of contention for FOLA was that the only issue that does not appear to have been considered is the concept of allowing a licensee to plead no-contest, which would cover situations where the lawyer or paralegal is content to lose their license or accept some other form of discipline but does not want to admit to any wrongdoing and it does not create any prejudice for the Law Society of Ontario (for example, an undertaking is given not to apply for reinstatement). FOLA posited that that this would allow for an early and efficient resolution and eliminate the expense of a full proceeding.
The final version will be presented to Convocation in February 2019. If approved, they are scheduled to take effect April 1, 2019.