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Introduction

In March 2014, Ontario’s Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) performed a targeted assessment of the way the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) registers people who apply for a licence to practise in Ontario, to ensure that the registration practices are fair and continue to improve.

Assessment is one of the Fairness Commissioner's mandated roles under the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act (FARPACTA).

Assessment Cycle

To hold regulatory bodies accountable for continuous improvement, the OFC assesses their licensing practices using a two-year assessment cycle.

Assessment cycles alternate between full assessments and targeted assessments:

  • Full assessments address all specific and general duties described in FARPACTA.
  • Targeted assessments focus on the areas where the OFC made recommendations in the previous full assessment.

This approach establishes continuity between the assessment cycles.

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Focus of This Assessment and Report

The March 2014 targeted assessment of the LSO for lawyers focused on the areas where the OFC made recommendations in the full assessment it completed in November 2011.

The OFC’s detailed report captures the results of the targeted assessment. The assessment summary provides the following key information from the detailed report:

  • duties that were assessed
  • an overview of assessment outcomes for specific-duty practices
  • an overview of comments related to the general duty
  • commendable practices
  • recommendations

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Availability of Report

The OFC encourages the LSO to provide the detailed report to its staff, council members, the public, and other interested parties.

To receive a copy of the detailed report, click here.

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Assessment Methods

Assessments are based on the Registration Practices Assessment Guide – For Regulated Professions and Trades. The guide presents registration practices relating to the specific duties and general duty in FARPACTA.

A regulatory body’s practices can be measured against FARPACTA’s specific duties in a straightforward way. However, the general duty is broad, and the principles it mentions (transparency, objectivity, impartiality and fairness) are not defined in the legislation.

As a result, the specific-duty and general-duty obligations are assessed differently (see the Strategy for Continuous Improvement of Registration Practices).

Specific Duties

The OFC can clearly determine whether a regulatory body demonstrates the specific-duty practices in the assessment guide. Therefore, for each specific-duty practice, the OFC provides one of the following assessment outcomes:

  • Demonstrated – all required elements of the practice are present or addressed
  • Partially Demonstrated – some but not all required elements are present or addressed
  • Not Demonstrated – none of the required elements are present or addressed
  • Not Applicable – this practice does not apply to this regulatory body

General Duty

Because there are many ways that a regulatory body can demonstrate that its practices, overall, are meeting the principles of the general duty, the OFC makes assessment comments for the general duty, rather than identifying assessment outcomes. For the same reason, assessment comments are made by principle, rather than by practice.

For information about the OFC’s interpretations of the general-duty principles and the practices that the OFC uses as a guideline for assessment, see the Registration Practices Assessment Guide – For Regulated Professions and Trades.

Commendable Practices and Recommendations

Where applicable, the OFC identifies commendable practices or recommendations for improvement related to the specific duties and general duty.

Sources

Assessment outcomes, comments, and commendable practices and recommendations are based on information provided by the regulatory body. The OFC relies on the accuracy of this information to produce the assessment report. The OFC compiles registration information from sources such as the following:

  • Fair Registration Practices Reports, audits, Entry-to-Practice Review Reports, annual meetings
  • the regulatory body’s:
    • website
    • policies, procedures, guidelines and related documentation templates for communication with applicants
    • regulations and bylaws
    • internal auditing and reporting mechanisms
    • third-party agreements and related monitoring or reporting documentation
    • qualifications assessments and related documentation
  • targeted questions/requests for evidence that the regulatory body demonstrates a practice or principle

For more information  about the assessment cycle, assessment process, and legislative obligations, see the Strategy for Continuous Improvement of Registration Practices.

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Assessment Summary

Specific Duties

Specific duties assessed

As a result of the recommendations made in the full assessment completed in November 2011, the LSO has been assessed in the area(s) marked below:

None Unchecked
Information for Applicants Unchecked
Timely Decisions, Responses and Reasons Unchecked
Internal Review or Appeal Unchecked
Information on Appeal Rights Unchecked
Documentation of Qualifications Unchecked
Assessment of Qualifications Checked
Training Unchecked
Access to Records Unchecked

Outcomes

The LSUC has partially demonstrated all of the practices in the following specific-duty area(s):

  • Assessment of Qualifications

For practices that are partially demonstrated, see the Recommendations section later in this summary.

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General Duty

Assessment Method

The LSO selected the method marked below for the assessing of its adherence to the general-duty principles, and informed the OFC:

a. OFC assesses based on the practices listed in the assessment guide Unchecked
b. Regulatory body self-assesses based on the practices in the assessment guide Checked
c. Regulatory body self-assesses using a system-based approach, in which it explains what it does to ensure that its practices are adhering to the general-duty principles Unchecked

Principles assessed

As a result of the recommendations made in the full assessment completed in November 2011, the LSO has been assessed on the principle(s) marked below:

None Unchecked
Transparency Unchecked
Objectivity Unchecked
Impartiality Unchecked
Fairness Checked

Comments

Since the last assessment, the LSUC has taken measures to ensure fair registration practices.

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Commendable Practices

A commendable practice is a program, activity or strategy that goes beyond the minimum standards set by the OFC assessment guides, considering the regulatory body’s resources and profession-specific or trade-specific context. Commendable practices may or may not have potential for transferability to another regulatory body.

The LSO is demonstrating commendable practices in the following area(s).

Assessment of Qualifications

  • establishing verifiable criteria for all requirements and assessments, which promote objective decision-making and assessment
  • exerting positive influence in promoting transparent, objective, impartial and fair registration practices of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) by approving the National Entry-Level Competency Profile

Fairness

  • making equity and diversity a priority for the profession through the LSUC’s Standing Committee on Equity and Aboriginal Issues, which engages in consultations, meetings, education and other activities
  • exempting or expediting the articling requirement for qualified international applicants. Eligible applicants take a three-day Professional Conduct and Practice in Ontario course to help them transition to practice in the Ontario context
  • enabling applicants to see the information, options and recommendations that were considered by Convocation in its decision-making process 

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Recommendations

The LSUC should improve in the following areas.

Assessment of Qualifications

Status
  • Work with the NCA to ensure that the NCA communicates objective criteria and/or policies for assessing the following:
 
  • courses in Canadian law taught at international law schools
Checked
August 2014
  • international law degrees completed through distance education (Practice 5.10)
Checked
July 2014
Blank = Implementation is in progress.
Checked = Recommendation is implemented.
Acceptable alternative = Regulator implements acceptable alternative to this recommendation.

Assessment History

In the previous assessment, the OFC identified two recommendations for this regulatory body.

Both recommendations have been completed.

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