Professional Management Practice Management Guideline

The Guideline is not intended to replace a lawyer's professional judgment or to establish a one-size-fits-all approach to the practice of law. Subject to Guideline provisions that incorporate legal, By-Law or Rules of Professional Conduct requirements, a decision not to follow the Guideline will not, in and of itself, indicate that a member has failed to provide quality service. Conversely, use of the Guideline may not ensure that a lawyer has delivered quality service. Whether a lawyer has provided quality service will depend upon the circumstances of each case.

Table of Contents


6.1 Introduction

As the pace of change and complexity of the legal environment increases, the need to develop, maintain and adapt to changing professional standards is crucial. The Professional Management Guideline highlights the broad range of activities, initiatives and policies lawyers should consider to ensure professionalism. For example, lawyers must comply with regulatory requirements governing continuing professional development, various practice arrangements, and their relationship to students, employees or others. Lawyers may consider a variety of individual or firm wide professional development initiatives. The Professional Management Guideline is useful in planning or reviewing existing professional management initiatives.

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6.2 Continuing Professional Development

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is defined as the maintenance and enhancement of a lawyer’s professional knowledge, skills, attitudes and professionalism throughout the individual’s career. It is a positive tool that benefits lawyers and is an essential component of the commitment lawyers make to the public to practise law competently and ethically.

6.2.1 Required Continuing Professional Development

In each calendar year, lawyers who are practising law must complete at least 12 CPD Hours in Eligible Educational Activities consisting of a minimum of 3 Professionalism Hours on topics related to professional responsibility, ethics, and/or practice management and up to 9 Substantive Hours per year.  Substantive Hours may address substantive or procedural law topics and/or related skills. Non-legal subjects may also be eligible for Substantive Hours if they are relevant to the lawyer’s practice.

Eligible Educational Activities include the following:

  • participating in person, online, or by telephone at live CPD programs and courses that provide an opportunity to interact with colleagues and/or instructors
  • viewing or listening to recorded or archived CPD programs or courses with at least one colleague
  • viewing or listening to archived or recorded CPD or courses without a colleague  or participation in asynchronous, online CPD that prompt responses throughout the learning process, such as requiring participants to respond to questions before they can move to the next module or section (maximum 6 hours per year)
  • participating as a registrant in a college, university, or other designated educational institution program
  • teaching (maximum of 6 hours per year)
  • acting as a judge or coach in a mooting competition
  • acting as an articling principal, mentoring or being mentored, or supervising a paralegal field placement (maximum 6 hours per year)
  • writing and editing law-related books and articles (maximum of 6 hours per year)
  • participating in study group sessions of two or more colleagues
  • attending educational components of bar and law association meetings

Lawyers must report their CPD Hours using the online Law Society of Upper Canada’s Portal by December 31 of each calendar year. Lawyers and paralegals are required to keep written confirmation of registration at CPD programs as proof of attendance. Program materials such as agendas, papers, attendee lists and discussion notes should be retained on file until the end of the year following the year in which the CPD program or activity was completed.

Lawyers should review By-Law 6.1 and the Law Society of Upper Canada’s website for more detailed information about the CPD requirement.

6.2.2 Other Continuing Professional Development

All lawyers, even those who are not subject to the Continuing Professional Development Requirement, must take steps or undertake activities or initiatives to ensure that they meet the minimum standards of professionalism and competence.

Depending on their particular circumstances or practice areas, lawyers may consider undertaking professional development, education or training to enhance

  • knowledge of general legal principles and procedures
  • knowledge of the substantive law and procedure for the areas of law in which they practise or intend to practise
  • interviewing skills and techniques for interviewing clients and witnesses
  • legal research skills and methods including paper, computer or internet based research
  • problem solving skills, analysis and ability
  • skill in applying the law to relevant facts
  • writing and drafting skills so as to improve accuracy and clarity of expression
  • negotiation skills
  • knowledge of, and skill in, alternative dispute resolution
  • skill in investigation of facts
  • advocacy skills
  • client service and communications skills
  • practice management skills and procedures, including
    • time management
    • file management
    • financial management
     
  • ability to personally manage their physical, emotional and mental health
  • ability to manage stress
  • knowledge and use of technology in the practice
  • knowledge of professional responsibility requirements contained in the Rules of Professional Conduct  

Lawyers may consider a broad range of professional development, education and training activities depending on their particular circumstances and requirements. Activities related to lawyers’ work and directed at enhancing competence may include both self-study (e.g. reading or conducting case specific research) and CPD.

Lawyers should track the number of hours they devote to professional development, education or training through self-study and CPD.

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6.3 Education and Training for Non-lawyer Personnel

Lawyers may consider implementing education and training programs for non-professional law firm personnel such as administrators, administrative assistants, and law clerks to support lawyers’ efforts to meet changing professional requirements, standards, techniques and practices. Lawyers may offer development, education or training to non-lawyer firm personnel to enhance their knowledge of

  • procedural requirements in the area of law practised by the firm or by the lawyer
  • the use of technology
  • client service and communications skills
  • time management
  • financial management
  • office procedures.

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6.4 Memberships in Professional Organizations

Lawyers may consider membership in various professional organizations which offer legal education and training programs and a variety of initiatives which may assist in their professional development and allow for networking and camaraderie amongst members of the local law association.

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6.5 Access to Research Facilities

If lawyers have in-house libraries, they should maintain up-to-date library materials.

If lawyers do not have in-house libraries, they should consider either a membership in the local law association to enable access to current legal material or on-line research available through various legal service providers.

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6.6 Practice Management and Maintaining Professionalism in a Changing Environment

Lawyers may wish to assess and consider, depending on the size of the practice or the lawyer’s individual circumstances, whether they have effective leadership and planning in place to adapt to changing legal or economic environments.

6.6.1 Leadership

Depending on the size of the practice or the lawyer’s individual circumstances, lawyers may consider activities which assist in

  • building trust among firm members
  • building pride
  • demonstrating leadership character
  • leading results oriented meetings
  • overcoming common roadblocks to conflict resolution
  • sharing authority and responsibility
  • clarifying roles
  • building support networks through firm teams.

6.6.2 Planning

To enable lawyers to manage change and plan for the future, lawyers may wish to enhance their knowledge and make use of

  • standard planning principles related to the business of law
  • strategic planning to chart the future of the practice
  • business plans to realize and enhance profitability
  • budget planning from both a fiscal and strategic perspective
  • project planning to manage firm and practice initiatives.

6.6.3 Coaching and Mentoring

In circumstances where lawyers may be responsible for the performance or productivity of others, lawyers may consider strategies to enhance their coaching or mentoring responsibilities and initiatives. Coaching strategies may include

  • modeling excellence
  • celebrating success
  • generous encouragement
  • use of effective praise
  • constructive criticism.

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6.7 Firm Meetings

Lawyers should consider holding regular meetings with colleagues and firm personnel to

  • keep abreast of developments in the firm
  • monitor the emotional health and satisfaction level of firm members
  • explore the need for professional development or career advancement for firm members
  • promote congeniality among colleagues.

Depending on their circumstances, lawyers may wish to consider the use of regular partnership meetings

  • staff meetings
  • firm retreats
  • social gatherings for all members.

Sole practitioners or smaller firms may consider meeting regularly with other comparable small firms on a formal or informal basis to

  • keep abreast of developments in the legal community
  • monitor the emotional health of fellow colleagues in other firms
  • explore the need for professional development initiatives for smaller firms promote congeniality among lawyers in the local legal community

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6.8 Compliance With Chapter 4, The Practice of Law

Lawyers shall ensure that their practice complies with Chapter 4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In particular lawyers shall ensure that

  • legal services provided are made available to the public in an efficient and convenient way that commands respect and confidence and is compatible with the integrity and independence of the profession in accordance with Section 4.1
  • marketing of legal services complies with Sections 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3.

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6.9 Fees, Records, Insurance and Trust Accounts

Lawyers shall ensure that they comply with all legal and regulatory requirements. In particular, lawyers must

  • maintain current fee paying, record keeping and filing requirements including payment of The Law Society of Upper Canada annual fees in accordance with By-Law 5
  • report CPD hours and retain written records in accordance with By-Law 6.1
  • file forms including the Member’s Annual Report in accordance with By-Law 8
  • keep records in accordance with By-Law 9, Part V
  • maintain a trust account, if they receive money in trust or other property from clients, in accordance with By-Law 9, Part IV
  • preserve client property in accordance with Section 3.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
    • a lawyer shall care for a client’s property as a careful and prudent owner would when dealing with like property and shall observe all relevant rules and law about the preservation of a client’s property entrusted to a lawyer in accordance with Section 3.5
     
  • ensure that they maintain professional liability insurance in accordance with By-Law 6.

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6.10 Practice Arrangements

In addition to the legal and regulatory requirements applicable to all lawyers individually, lawyers shall ensure that they also comply with regulatory and legal requirements specific to their practice arrangement.

Lawyers may include in firm partnership agreements, shareholder agreements or employment contracts, terms to ensure that professionalism, courtesy and good faith are maintained in accordance with Rule 7.2-1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct particularly respecting client matters when

  • practice arrangements change
  • practice is dissolved
  • there is misconduct by a firm member
  • firm member leaves firm.

The following additional considerations will apply to various practice arrangements:

6.10.1 Sole Practitioners in Office Sharing or Association Arrangements

Lawyers practising in various space and or cost sharing arrangements

  • must maintain separate trust accounts
  • absent client waiver, must maintain client confidentiality, within the shared premises
  • must identify and manage potential or actual conflicts of interest arising from the office or expense arrangements.

6.10.2 Sole Practitioners Employing Associates

Sole practitioners who employ associates may wish to consider reducing the employment contract to writing.

6.10.3 Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships

Lawyers practising with other lawyers in partnerships may wish to consider reducing to writing the terms of the partnership by way of partnership agreement.

If the partnership is a limited liability partnership, lawyers shall comply with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements, and in particular By-Law 7, Part I.

6.10.4 Professional Corporations

Lawyers practising in a professional corporation shall ensure compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements and, in particular, By-Law 7, Part II. Lawyers may wish to consider entering into a written shareholder agreement.

6.10.5 Multi-Disciplinary Practices or Partnerships

A member may, in connection with the member’s practice of law (or in partnership or association), provide to a client only the services of an individual who is not a member who practices a profession, trade or occupation, that supports or supplements the practice of law. [By-Law 7, s. 17]

In the event lawyers’ practices are multi-disciplinary they shall ensure that

  • pursuant to Rule 3.4-16.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, non-lawyer partners and associates observe Section 3.4 in relation to the legal practice and any other business or professional undertakings carried on by them outside the legal practice
  • they comply with By-Law 7, Part III Multi-Discipline Practices

6.10.6 Affiliations

An affiliated entity is any person or group of persons other than a person or group authorized to practise law in or outside Ontario [Section 1.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct].

An affiliation is the joining on a regular basis of a lawyer or group of lawyers with an affiliated entity in the delivery or promotion and delivery of the legal services of the lawyer or group of lawyers and the non-legal services of the affiliated entity.

In the event lawyers enter into an affiliation as defined by the Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers shall comply with

  • Rule 3.4-11.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and
  • By-Law 7, Part IV Affiliations.

6.10.7 Inter-provincial Practices

Lawyers practising in interprovincial law firms shall ensure that they comply with By-Law 4, Part VII.

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6.11 Relationship to Students, Employees and Others

6.11.1 Articling and Summer Students

If lawyers employ summer law students or articling students they

  • shall comply with Chapter 6: Relationship to Students, Employees, and Others, including
    • Rule 6.1-1 Direct Supervision which requires that a lawyer shall assume complete professional responsibility for all business entrusted to him or her and shall directly supervise staff and assistants to whom particular tasks and functions are delegated, in accordance with Part I of By-Law 7.1.
    • Rule 6.2-1 Recruitment Procedures requiring that a lawyer observe the procedures of The Law Society of Upper Canada respecting recruitment of articling students and the engagement of summer students
    • Rule 6.2-2 Duties of Principal requiring that a lawyer acting as a principal to a student shall provide the student with meaningful training and exposure to and involvement in work that will provide the student with knowledge and experience of the practical aspects of the law, together with an appreciation of the traditions and ethics of the profession
     

6.11.2 Supervision of Staff and Assistants

In accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct and Part I of By-Law 7.1, lawyers shall

  • assume complete professional responsibility for all business entrusted to him or her and shall directly supervise staff and assistants [Rule 6.1-1]
  • not permit a non-lawyer to do the functions listed within Rules 6.1-5, 6.1-6, 6.1-6.1, and 6.1-6.2 and section 4 of By‑Law 7.1.
  • only permit the non-lawyer to do the functions outlined in section 5 of By-Law 7.1 after providing the non-lawyer with prior express instruction and authorization to do so
  • not send out collection letters over the signature of a lawyer, unless the letter is on the lawyer’s letterhead, prepared under the lawyer’s supervision, and sent from the lawyer’s office [By-Law 7.1, Part I, s. 7]
  • not delegate to the affiliated entity or the affiliated entity’s staff any tasks in connection with the provision of legal services without obtaining the client’s informed consent. [By-Law 7.1, Part I, s. 3(2)]

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