We will review your complaint to decide how it should be handled. This may include contacting the complainant’s current and/or former lawyer and other parties that may have information relevant to the complaint. We will investigate a complaint if, on its face, it establishes a concern of:
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.
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.
Who is the Complaints Review Commissioner?
The Complaints Review Commissioner is an independent decision maker who is not a lawyer.
What’s involved in a review by the Complaints Review Commissioner?
The Complaints Review Commissioner’s process involves a file review of the same information that was available to staff at the time of their initial decision. The Commissioner then provides a written decision directly to the complainant, with a copy to the lawyer and the staff person involved.
When can you request a review by the Complaints Review Commissioner?
The Complaints Resolution Department staff have initially reviewed a matter and decided not to investigate the complaint on the basis of no merit; or
Following an investigation, the complaint is concluded by a staff decision that does not involve referring the matter to the Complaints Investigation Committee.
What are the possible outcomes for a review by the Complaints Review Commissioner?
They confirm the initial staff decision;
They require an investigation by a different staff member in cases where an investigation has not been conducted; or
Where an investigation has taken place, they direct the Law Society to refer the matter to the Complaints Investigation Committee for its consideration.
Requests for review must be sent directly to the Complaints Review Commissioner by:
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?
The Law Society of Manitoba
200 – 260 St. Mary Ave.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3C 0M6