Amendment History

February 23, 2017

The lawyer and paralegal Rules of Conduct were amended to clarify the scope of the prohibition against threatening criminal proceedings. The prohibition was expanded in 2014 to include regulatory proceedings. The Rule applies to threats without reasonable and lawful justification to initiate or proceed with a charge for an offence under the Criminal Code or other federal statute, a provincial or territorial statute, or a municipal by-law. The Rule also applies to a threat to make a complaint to a regulatory authority. Paralegal Standing Committee report. Professional Regulation Committee report.

September 22, 2016

The lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct respecting conflicts of interest relevant to short-term pro bono services were amended to expand their applicability to services provided under the auspices of a pro bono provider. Previously, the rules applied primarily to services provided through Pro Bono Ontario. The amended rules reflect changes made, in 2014, to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Conduct.

May 26, 2016

Convocation amended the lawyers’ and paralegals’ conduct rules regarding the following: 

Transactions with Clients: The amendments ensure the rules on conflicts of interest in circumstances where licensees engage in transactions with clients are clear, consistent, and logical and able to provide appropriate guidance to the professions. 

Duty to Report: The amendments clarify when the duty to report a licensee to the Law Society arises. They also revise the rules’ approach to the issue of the duty to report to the Law Society a concern about another licensee’s capacity to provide professional services. 

Errors and Omissions: The amendments clarify the rules regarding the relationship between a licensee’s ethical duties and a licensee’s obligations under mandatory liability insurance contracts. The amendments also make it clear that a licensee’s ethical duty to notify their insurer of a potential claim may arise regardless of whether the licensee believes the claim has merit. 

The amended rules reflect changes made to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Conduct.

February 25, 2016

Convocation approved changes to the lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct to reflect the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Canadian National Railway Co. v. McKercher LLP, as well as other developments in the law and related changes made to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Conduct.  

According to McKercher, a lawyer, and by extension a law firm, cannot act for a client whose immediate legal interests are adverse to those of another existing client, unless both clients consent. The “bright line” rule applies regardless of whether the matters are related or unrelated.  

The commentaries to Rule 3.4-1 (Conflicts of Interest) and Rule 3.4-2 (Consent) were amended to provide guidance to lawyers regarding their ethical obligations in this area. The Law Society sought input from the profession on the proposed rule changes in 2015. 

Convocation approved the addition of new rule 5.1-2A and related commentary to the lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct. The new rule prohibits the concealment, destruction or alteration of incriminating physical evidence. The adoption of the new rule follows a call for input regarding proposed rule amendments held in 2015 and the addition of a similar rule to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Conduct in 2014.

January 28, 2016

The Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to provide that lawyers who previously served as judges on the Superior Court of Justice and who return to practise and plan to appear as counsel or advocate in any court, or before an administrative board or tribunal, must now apply to the Law Society for approval. The Rules were also amended to replace the phrase “committee of Convocation appointed for the purpose” with “panel of the Hearing Division of the Law Society Tribunal” to reflect Convocation’s earlier designation for the committee. 

September 24, 2015

Convocation amended the Rules of Professional Conduct that address a client's right to receive legal services in the official language of their choice to include explicit reference to aboriginal  languages. 

June 25, 2015

Convocation amended the Rules of Professional Conduct in three areas.  New Rule 3.2-2A on language rights, previously referred to in Commentary, provides that clients have the right to be served in the official language of their choice and that lawyers should carefully consider whether it is possible to provide the required service in a competent manner.   

The rules on confidentiality and conflicts of interest resulting from lawyers transferring between law firms were amended to provide that when a lawyer transfers from one firm to another, the lawyer may disclose confidential client information to the extent reasonably necessary to detect and resolve conflicts of interest (Rule 3.3-7).  New commentary to Rule 3.4-20 sets out reasonable measures to be implemented by the new law firm to which a lawyer transfers to protect the confidentiality of client information. A redrafted rule 3.4-23 provides guidance on lawyer due diligence for non-lawyer staff when lawyers transfer between firms.  

New paragraphs of commentary were added to Rule 3.2-1A.1 regarding limited scope retainers. 

November 28, 2014

Minor amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct were made to remove the first occurrence of the word “with” in Rule 7.2-8 and Rule 7.2-8.1, and to add the heading “Unrepresented Persons” to Rule 7.2-9.   

October 1, 2014

Amendments to the rules reflecting the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Conduct came into effect Oct. 1, 2014. Convocation approved the amendments at its Oct. 2013 meeting. See Oct. 2013 Convocation report (PDF). See also Rules of Professional Conduct in effect prior to October 1, 2014 (PDF)  

January 23, 2014

Convocation approved an amendment to Rule 5.04 of the Rules of Professional Conduct to reflect recent changes made to the Human Rights Code specifying that every person has a right to equal treatment without discrimination because of gender identity or gender expression. Full Report  

January 24, 2013

The Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to include reference to the Law Society’s new Member Assistance Program offered by Homewood Human Solutions™.  Full report.

October 25, 2012

Convocation amended the commentary to Rule 2.02 (5) to add a section on Red Flags in Real Estate Transactions, related to the issue of knowledge of the fraudulent nature of a real estate transaction. Full report.

April 26, 2012

Rule 2.02(5) and related commentary were amended to clarify the requirement that lawyers be on guard against being used to facilitate dishonesty, fraud, crime or illegal conduct. Full report.

September 22, 2011

Convocation approved amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 1, 2 and 6)to provide guidance to lawyers and paralegals who provide legal services under limited scope retainers, also called "unbundled" legal services.Full report.

April 28, 2011

Convocation amended subrule 2.02(5)of the Rules of Professional Conduct to implement Convocation’s decision in February 2011 regarding trust account requirements. The rule amendments emphasize that a trust account must not be used for purposes outside the provision of legal services. Professional Regulation Committee report.

November 25, 2010

The Rules of Professional Conduct and the Paralegal Rules of Conduct were amended to clarify the ethical obligations of lawyers and paralegals when they communicate with represented corporations or organizations.

 Full report (Professional Regulation).
Full report (Paralegal Standing).

September 29, 2010

The definition of "associate" in Rule 1.02 of the Rules of Professional Conduct was amended to make it clear that paralegals may be associates in law firms and that lawyers and paralegals may form multi-disciplinary practices. Full report.

April 22, 2010

Rule 2.04 of the Rules of Professional Conduct was amended to implement the policy approved January 2010 on the conflicts of interest standard for Pro Bono Law Ontario short term limited legal services. Full report.

June 25, 2009

The Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to clarify that certain ethical duties are owed to both licensees in Ontario and other Canadian lawyers. A definition of "legal practitioner" was added and will replace "licensee(s)" and "lawyer(s)" in appropriate places throughout the rules. Legal practitioner means a person who is a licensee, or who is not a licensee but who is a member of the bar of a Canadian jurisdiction, other than Ontario, and who is authorized to practise law as a barrister and solicitor in that other jurisdiction. The amended rules are detailed in the committee report.

January 29, 2009

Rule 6 of the lawyer's Rules of Professional Conduct regarding financial obligations was amended. The amendments clarify the application of the rule to non-payment of financial obligations incurred in the course of practice on behalf of clients, and maintain the ability of the Law Society to respond where there are serious allegations of non-payment. Amendments were made to the commentary to rules 5.03 and 5.04 to more appropriately reflect current human rights legislation and case law. Housekeeping amendments were made to Rule 6.08. For more information see the Professional Regulation Committee report.

November 27, 2008

Convocation approved the final wording of Rule 3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. At its October meeting, Convocation approved amendments to the rule based on the Committee's draft. The final version was reviewed by the Law Society's Rules drafter. The amended rules provide a more concise statement of the key regulatory concepts relevant to advertising and marketing. See the Professional Regulation Committee report for more information. See also the October Professional Regulation Committee report.

June 26, 2008

Minor amendments were made to Rule 3.05(5) of the Rules of Professional Conduct to correct a reference to a particular section of By-Law 15. See the Professional Regulation Committee report for more information.

May 22, 2008

Rule 1.02 (Definitions) was amended to clarify the definition of conduct unbecoming a barrister and solicitor. A housekeeping amendment was made to the commentary following subrule 6.07(3) (Practice by suspended lawyer prohibited). See the Professional Regulation Committee report for more information.

April 24, 2008

Rules 2.08 (6), (7) and (8) of the Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to refer to licensees rather than lawyers, making clear that lawyers may divide fees with and accept referral fees from paralegals in accordance with the rules. The amendments also make clear that the prohibition on splitting fees or paying referral fees does not apply to arrangements between lawyers and paralegals. The amendments make the rules consistent with the companion rules in the Paralegal Rules of Conduct. Minor amendments were also made to the Paralegal Rules of Conduct to ensure complete consistency. See the Professional Regulation Committee report for more information.

February 21, 2008

Following consultations with the profession on new rules for real estate practice, Convocation approved Rule 2.04.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct requiring that there be two lawyers for transfers of title to real estate, one lawyer for the transferee (buyer) and one lawyer for the transferor (vendor). The two lawyers may practice in the same law firm so long as the general rules on conflicts of interest in Rule 2.04 are observed. The new 'two-lawyer rule' strengthens public protection in the electronic land registration system. Rule 5.01 was also amended to advise lawyers that they assume complete responsibility for the work on the real estate matter for which they are retained by a client. The amended rule reflects the policy underlying the requirements of By-Law 7.1 [Operational Obligations and Responsibilities]. The amendments will come into effect March 31, 2008. For more information see backgrounder and Professional Regulation Committee report.

January 24, 2008

Convocation approved by-law and rule amendments that set out the obligations of licensees whose licences are suspended or who are subject to other restrictions on practice. Rule 6.07 of the Rules of Professional Conduct was amended. A housekeeping amendment was made to the commentary of subrule 2.04 (10.3). See Professional Regulation Committee report for more information.

November 22, 2007

Convocation amended Rules 4.03 and 6.03 to permit lawyer licensees to communicate with a represented party for the purposes of a second opinion. Convocation adopted new Rule 5.01 on supervision and Convocation approved minor housekeeping amendments to the Rules 2 and 3. See the Professional Regulation Committee report for more information.

October 25, 2007

Convocation approved a new by-law addressing a lawyer's supervisory responsibilities over non-lawyers whom the lawyer engages to provide services within the lawyer's practice. The new by-law replaced most of Rule 5.01, which was revoked. Rule 5.01 will be replaced with a new rule on supervision that references the By-Law. For more information, see the Professional Regulation Committee report.

June 28, 2007

As a result of amendments to the Law Society Act, effective May 1, 2007, Convocation approved amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct. These amendments replace some old terminology with current language, update some definitions and references in the Rules and, where appropriate, include references to paralegals. For more information, see the Professional Regulation Committee report.

May 25, 2007

Convocation amended rule 6.08 to have a committee of Convocation, rather than Convocation, consider for approval requests to appear as counsel before the courts from retired judges who have returned to practice. Convocation appointed the Hearing Panel as the committee of Convocation for the purpose of these approvals. For more information see the Professional Regulation Committee report.

February 22, 2007

The Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to assist in preventing mortgage fraud and to reflect other obligations. Amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct aimed at reducing the risk of mortgage fraud were approved by Convocation. The amendments require a lawyer acting for a borrower and lender to make full disclosure of material facts to the lender and borrower and to provide final reports to lenders within 60 days of the registration of a mortgage. Another amendment to the Rules of Professional Conduct simplifies the manner in which consent is obtained by the lawyer from an institutional lender to act jointly for the borrower and lender. The Rules of Professional Conduct were also amended to require lawyers to report certain offences to the Law Society, as set out in By-Law 20 (Reporting Requirements), adopted by Convocation in December 2005. Professional Regulation Report from February convocation.

October 26, 2006

Rules 1.02 and 3.02(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to clarify the meaning of 'associate' and 'associates' and to clarify how the terms are to be used in law firm names. Rule 3.03(1) was amended to permit law firms to include names of retired and deceased members of the firm, identified as such, on their letterhead. These amendments were approved in principle at September's Convocation. The commentary from Rule 6.01(3) was amended to reflect the merge and renaming of two organizations, LINK and the Ontario Bar Assistance Program, which have now become the Ontario Lawyers' Assistance Program.

February 24, 2005

Convocation approved an amendment to the commentary to rule 2.04(6) of the Rules of Professional Conduct to provide greater guidance for lawyers who are retained to prepare spousal or partner wills. Motion to amend commentary

January 27, 2005

Convocation approved an amendment to rule 2.02(5) of the Rules of Professional Conduct with respect to the prevention of money laundering. New commentary advises lawyers to be alert to situations that raise suspicions about the nature of a client's transaction. Motion to Amend Rule 2.02(5)

October 28, 2004

Convocation approved the addition of two new commentaries to Rules 2.04 (1) and (3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct that highlight conflicts of interest when a lawyer represents an individual with whom the lawyer has a personal relationship or a sexual or intimate relationship. Motion to Amend Rules 2.04(1) and (3). Convocation amended Rules 2.08(3) to (5) of the Rules of Professional Conduct on contingency fees as a result of amendments to the Solicitor's Act and a new regulation under that Act on contingency fees and contingency fee arrangements. Motion to Amend Rule 2.08(3) to (5)

May 28, 2004

Rules of Professional Conduct amended re: law firm names and letterhead. Ontario law firm names may now include descriptive and trade names and the names of lawyers qualified in non-Canadian jurisdictions under amended rule 3.02 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Amendments to rule 3.03 permit Ontario lawyers to use designations arising from membership in a non-Canadian bar on letterhead provided that lawyers also use the designation for the practice of law in Ontario. Further changes allow lawyers to include advertising permitted under rule 3.04 on letterhead. Along with the rule changes, Convocation also approved criteria for use by Law Society staff when providing pre-approval guidance to members on their proposed firm names under the amended rules. Professional Regulation Committee.

March 25, 2004

Convocation approved amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct arising from a review of the lawyer's role in corporate governance. The amendments include:

  • New rules on a lawyer's obligation to report organizational misconduct "up the ladder" within the organization
  • New commentary to rule 2.04 on conflicts of interest arising from the lawyer's roles as counsel for and director of an organizational client
  • Amendments to rule 2.04 commentary and rule 2.06 on equity interests in corporate clients.

New/amended rules
Rule 2

October 23, 2003

New commentary was added to Rule 3.05 to clarify the use of terms that relate to a lawyer's designation as a specialist certified by the Law Society. New Commentary
Professional Regulation Report

November 21, 2002

Rules 2.08(5) was amended to clarify the rule's application to class proceedings. Revision

Oct 30, 2002

Rules 2:08 was amended to reflect the change in contingent fees and contingent fee agreements. Revision

June 28, 2002

Rules 5.01 and 6.03 were amended to address aspects of the electronic registration process. Revisions.

May 23, 2002

Subrules 6.07 (2) and (3) were amended. Applications made under rule 6.07 - Preventing Unauthorized Practice will now be processed by a committee of Convocation. Formerly, applications were processed by Convocation or a committee of Convocation. The changes were made to streamline the procedure. Revision

September 28, 2001

The Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to accommodate legislative amendments to the Ontario Business Corporations Act that permit certain professions to practice in corporate form. The changes to the Rules come into effect when the legislation is proclaimed in force. Rule 3.02 - Law Firm Name was amended to mirror the requirement in the amendments to the Business Corporations Act that a corporation carrying on the practice of law must include the words 'Professional Corporation' in its name. The following was added to the Rule:

Professional Corporation

(9) If a lawyer practices law through a professional corporation, the name of the corporation shall include the words "Professional Corporation".

In addition, a new clause was added to Rule 3.03 (1)- Letterhead:

Subject to subrules (2) and (3), a lawyer's letterhead and the signs identifying the office may only include
...
(i) the words "Professional Corporation", where applicable;

The above change required the re-designation of existing clauses (i), (j), (k), (l) and (m) as (j), (k), (l), (m) and (n) respectively.

June 22, 2001

The Rules of Professional Conduct were amended by deleting a paragraph in the commentary to rule 6.01(3) that discussed the requirements of the DHC to report certain misconduct. The Rules of Professional Conduct were amended to include a duty to advise clients of their French language rights in connection with the legal matter for which they consult a lawyer. New commentary was added to rule 1.03 - Interpretation.

May 24, 2001

The Rules of Professional Conduct were amended by Convocation on May 24, 2001, as recommended by the Professional Regulation Committee (PRC) and the Multi-Disciplinary Practice Task Force (MDP). The MDP Task Force recommended the amendments as part of a scheme for regulating affiliated law firms. The recommendations from PRC are based on a review by the Rules Working Group of issues arising from the adoption of the new Rules on November 1, 2000. Summary of amendments (pdf)