Complaint Process and Possible Outcomes

Initial Assessment & Decision

We will review your complaint to decide how it should be handled. We will investigate a complaint if, on its face, it raises a concern of:

  • incompetence;
  • professional misconduct;
  • conduct unbecoming a lawyer in his or her practice of law.

We may decide that the complaint is not appropriate for investigation.  In that case, you and the lawyer will receive a letter of explanation. The lawyer will also receive a copy of your complaint.

Informal Resolution

We may try to resolve the matter informally between you and the lawyer, usually by telephone.  If your concern is resolved, you and your lawyer both will receive a letter confirming the result.  If it is not resolved, or more serious problems are discovered, we may investigate further.

Investigation — Staff Resolution

We may decide to investigate, in which case we will send a copy of the complaint to the lawyer.  The lawyer must respond in writing, usually within 14 days.  In most cases, you will receive a copy of the lawyer’s response.

We may contact you for further information either, in writing, by telephone, or by arranging an interview.

Following the investigation, we may dismiss the complaint, send a letter to the lawyer with recommendations for the improvement of the lawyer’s practice, or send a letter reminding the lawyer of his or her ethical obligations.

Most complaints (over 80%) are resolved by staff lawyers in one of the methods described above.

Appealing a Decision

If you disagree with the staff lawyer’s decision regarding your complaint, in most cases you can request, within 60 days, that the complaint and decision be reviewed by the Complaints Review Commissioner. The Complaints Review Commissioner is an independent decision maker who is not a lawyer.

The Complaints Review Commissioner will review the file and can either agree with and uphold the staff lawyer’s decision, or send the matter back to the Law Society.  In the case of a staff lawyer’s dismissal without an investigation, the Complaints Review Commissioner can direct the Law Society to investigate the complaint.  In the case of a staff lawyer’s disposition following an investigation, the Complaints Review Commissioner can direct that the Complaints Investigation Committee review the complaint.

Requests for review by the Complaints Review Commissioner may be sent by email to complaints.commissioner@gmail.com or by regular mail to:

Complaints Review Commissioner
P.O. Box 2234
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3C 3R5

Discipline Hearings

Where the concerns are very serious, the Complaints Investigation Committee can charge the lawyer with professional misconduct, incompetence or conduct unbecoming. A panel of the Discipline Committee, consisting of two lawyers and a public representative will hold a discipline hearing. A discipline hearing is a public hearing, which is similar to a trial. Evidence, including witness testimony, is presented to the panel at the hearing. At the end of the hearing, if the Discipline panel finds that the charges against the lawyer have been proven, it can:

  • reprimand the lawyer;
  • fine the lawyer;
  • impose conditions of practice on the lawyer;
  • suspend the lawyer; or
  • disbar the lawyer.

We then inform the complainant of the decision, in writing, of the decision and publish the decision on our website. If the lawyer is suspended or disbarred, we issue a public notice.

A schedule of upcoming hearing dates can be found here.

The complaint process cannot give you a refund, or a reduction of fees or compensation. However, where there is negligence or theft on the lawyer’s part, you may be eligible for compensation. For information see Can I Seek Compensation?