Professional Responsibility

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society regulates lawyers practising in Nova Scotia, including practising members as well as lawyers from other jurisdictions who practise here temporarily. The Society maintains ethical standards as set out in the Code of Professional Conduct. The Society also ensures that lawyers comply with practice standards and guidelines.

The Code came into effect in Nova Scotia on January 1, 2012 and has been amended from time to time since then based on changes in the Model Code of Conduct of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. The Model Code was drafted as a national code for Canadian lawyers. The Federation provides an Interactive Model Code of Professional Conduct with side-by-side views of the Model Code's provisions and equivalents in all Canadian jurisdictions. 

In Nova Scotia, the Code of Professional Conduct replaced the Legal Ethics Handbook, which had guided lawyers in the province from 1990 until 2011. A Table of Concordance between the Code and the Handbook is available. While the format of the Code is quite different from the Handbook, the ethical obligations remain much the same. The Society published an enhanced version of the Code in May 2017, providing quick access to decision digests and ethics information relating to specific rules within the Code

If a lawyer breaches the Society’s ethical rules, the lawyer can be subject to a complaint, investigation and disciplinary action, or a referral to the Fitness to Practise program. The role of the Complaints Investigation Committee is to investigate complaints against lawyers and work to resolve them, or direct the Executive Director to lay a formal charge against the lawyers. A panel of the Hearing Committee will hear the charges and evidence and may take steps to sanction the member – up to and including disbarment.

Professional Responsibility staff deal with the initial intake of complaints and work with various committees to resolve issues and support the work of those committees. Information regarding the Fitness to Practise Program can be found under the practice standards and guidelines link, as well as a number of other resources to assist lawyers who are involved with the complaint process.

Notices of matters referred to public hearings are posted on the website shortly after charges are served on the lawyer, and Notices of Hearing confirming the date, time and location of hearings are posted on the website at least 30 days prior to a hearing. Both notices include a summary of the charges. Decisions and dispositions on the merits are posted within 60 days of completion of the hearing.