In December 2010, amendments to the Legal Profession Act enabled the creation of the Society’s Fitness to Practise Program. The first of its kind for a Canadian law society, this program allows for an alternate process, in appropriate cases, to be offered to a lawyer with a capacity-related conduct issue who has come into contact with the Society either as a result of self-reporting, reporting by someone else or a complaint. The program is completely voluntary on the part of the member involved.
A lawyer cannot be compelled to enter into the Fitness to Practise Program. The lawyer can choose to have his or her fitness to practise assessed by a physician of the Society’s choosing. If the lawyer fails to consent to the assessment, or to cooperate with the physician or any other step in this process, the matter will be referred to the regular complaints process. If, after an assessment, no capacity issue is identified, then the matter will be referred to the regular complaints process.
This process allows the Society more flexibility in addressing problems encountered by lawyers who are impaired in their ability to practise, as the normal complaint process often is not the appropriate place for these members.
Crucial to this program is the Fitness to Practise Committee (FTPC), made up of senior members of the Bar and medical practitioners, all of whom bring a wealth of expertise in mental health and addiction issues, Lawyers’ Assistance programs and professional regulation. This Committee reviews medical reports and works with the affected lawyer to design an agreement that will both protect the public and assist in addressing the incapacity.
If a lawyer is referred to the Fitness to Practise Program pursuant to Part 9 of the Regulations of the Legal Profession Act, the Society will ask the lawyer to read this consent form, which also provides details about the program, the Committee and related processes: