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Frequently Asked
Questions

This list of common questions and scenarios has been put together to help the public find specific information more quickly and easily.

I would like contact information for a lawyer. Does the Law Society have an online member directory? Open  

Yes. Please open our Lawyer Search page, which will locate a lawyer by name or by region and provide the address of all practising lawyers according to the most recent update of our database. This directory will also provide the current member status and insurance status of lawyers and former lawyers. In New Brunswick, we do not record or endorse a lawyer’s specialty.

Other Canadian law societies have similar directories. Please refer to our Links page for a list of law society websites. 

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I need a lawyer. Where can I find one who specializes in criminal/family/corporate/etc. law? Open  

You can use our Lawyer Search page to search our member directory for our most current information about our lawyer members (see above). The yellow pages in the telephone directory, or the lawyer’s website if they have one, may provide more information about a lawyer’s area of practice but our member directory will not tell you what types of files a lawyer will accept as we do not record this type of information. We do not offer a lawyer referral service.

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I can't afford a lawyer. What can I do? Open  

In some situations other than family files or criminal matters, you may be able to hire a lawyer through a contingent fee agreement (see below). In other situations, you might qualify for Legal Aid. Questions about who qualifies for Legal Aid must be addressed directly to the New Brunswick Legal Aid Commission. Please open our Links page for a list of informative websites that may be helpful if you decide to represent yourself. The Law Society does not provide legal advice. 

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Can a lawyer be paid on a percentage basis? What is a contingent fee? Open  

A contingent fee depends on the outcome. A contingent fee agreement is a contract with a lawyer where the fee paid to the lawyer is a percentage of the amount recovered for the client. This type of fee agreement is not permitted for family files or criminal matters. New Brunswick has an approved Contingent Fee Agreement form and a maximum percentage allowed. Please open our Contingent Fee Agreements page to read more. 

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My lawyer won't give me my file. Open  

If you’re hiring a new lawyer, the new lawyer may be able to help you or even obtain your file on your behalf. In some situations a lawyer may not keep your file. On the other hand, in some cases a lawyer can put a lien on your file (for example, if you owe fees or disbursements that you have not yet paid). Law Society staff cannot give you an opinion about this. If you think you are entitled to your file but you and/or your new lawyer are having trouble obtaining it, you may file a complaint (see below). 

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I'm looking for a Will but I don't know who prepared it. Open  

Please contact the Law Society about placing a notice in our newsletter, informing New Brunswick lawyers that you are searching for a Will.

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I'm looking for a file or a Will that was prepared by a lawyer who is no longer practising. Open  

If you know who worked on the file or who prepared the Will, contact the Law Society. We may still be able to contact the lawyer, or we may have a record of where the lawyer’s files are stored.

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What is a custodian? Open  

In cases where a lawyer, usually a sole practitioner, has suddenly become unable to practise, the Law Society will take steps to have another lawyer appointed as a custodian. In the past, custodians have been appointed due to the sudden illness or death of a lawyer, or when a lawyer was suspended by the Law Society. The custodian assists clients in retrieving their files, but does not take over the practice and cannot represent the clients. These situations are governed by Part 12 Custody of a Member’s Property of the Law Society Act, 1996.

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How can I find out if a lawyer has or has had complaints filed against him or her? Open  

You can find a lawyer’s public discipline history on our Discipline Cases page, where all complaints that are public (i.e. that have been referred to the Discipline Committee for a formal hearing) are listed. If the lawyer you are inquiring about is not listed on this page, then there are no public discipline matters relating to that lawyer. Private discipline proceedings may or may not exist but would not be included there. Without the lawyer’s consent, Law Society staff cannot discuss any matter that does not appear on our Discipline Cases page, or even disclose whether or not there are additional matters not listed there because they are not public.

Further information about which cases are public and which are not can be read our Publication Policies page.

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Complaint Mediation: I don't want to file a complaint but ... Open  

In order for us to assist you, you must communicate a complaint to us in writing. The Law Society Act, 1996 sets out the complaints process that must be followed by Law Society staff. While our legislation foresees the possibility of settling a complaint, it does not provide a way to settle a dispute without a complaint. Therefore we cannot offer such a service. Law Society staff cannot give you an opinion or legal advice about your situation, and we cannot accept an informal complaint by telephone. Please read the next two questions and answers.

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Should I file a complaint? Is my complaint valid? Open  

Each person must decide these questions for himself or herself. Law Society staff members are not permitted to answer these questions for you, but reading about the complaints process (next question) may help you decide.

We accept and investigate many types of complaints. Once received, complaints are assessed by the Registrar of Complaints, who will write back to you to inform you whether or not the complaint will proceed. If the Registrar feels the complaint is without merit, an investigation will not be conducted and we will not inform the lawyer that you contacted us.

Lawyers are reminded that they have a duty to file a complaint in certain cases.

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How do I file a complaint about the conduct of a lawyer? What happens then? Open  

Please open our Complaints page for directions to follow as well as an overview of what happens once we receive a complaint. The entire process is described step-by-step, from start to finish. Briefly: to make a complaint against a lawyer, the complaint must be filed in writing with the Registrar of Complaints, and you can file your complaint by letter or by using our Complaint Form

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My complaint was rejected, but I don't agree. Open  

If you write to us again with your reasons and concerns, you can have your complaint reviewed again whether it was rejected by the Registrar of Complaints or by the Complaints Committee. Upon review, it is possible that a rejected complaint will proceed after all or it may be rejected once again. 

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What can I do if I feel my lawyer's bill is too high or unreasonable? Open  

You may wish to apply to have the bill reviewed by an independent third party. Please open our Review of Lawyers’ Bills page for instructions and more information.

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What if I've been the victim of a crime? Open  

You should contact the police. If the situation relates to a lawyer, you may also file a complaint with us (see above). 

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Help! I've lost money because of a lawyer! Open  

How do you think the financial loss occurred? Was it because of dishonesty, such as theft? Or was it due to negligence, such as a mistake?

If you feel the financial loss was due to dishonesty or theft, the first step is to file a complaint (see above). The Registrar of Complaints reviews every complaint we receive. In cases where the Registrar thinks there might be a potential claim for compensation, an Application for Payment from the Compensation Fund with instructions is sent to the complainant. Please open our Compensation Fund page for more information.

If you feel the financial loss was due to negligence or a mistake, please read more about our Professional Liability Reserve (Insurance Fund). Please note: this is separate from the Discipline and Complaints procedures.

Like other providers of professional services to the public, lawyers may make mistakes, which may result in a financial loss for the client. The Law Society recognized this many years ago and requires that a lawyer who provides legal services to the public must be a member of a mandatory professional liability insurance programme that the Law Society has put in place.

This programme is designed to indemnify any lawyer covered by it up to a $1,000,000 limit. The procedure involved in filing a claim against a lawyer is no different than making a claim against any other provider of services and the claim may be defended by the lawyer and/or the the insurer.

If you believe a lawyer has made a mistake in providing legal services to you, and you wish to make a claim against that lawyer, you should obtain legal advice from a lawyer who will be able to advise you on the process. The Law Society’s discipline and complaints department cannot pay you money or make a lawyer pay you money because of a lawyer’s mistake. If you believe a lawyer has made a mistake, you will have to deal directly with the lawyer, sue the lawyer or seek legal counsel.

The Law Society manages the insurance programme but it does not make the final decision as to whether a lawyer was negligent and caused a loss. Only a court of law can make that decision.

In smaller communities, it is sometimes difficult to find a lawyer who is available to advise or represent you. You may have to consult a lawyer who practises outside of the community where your former lawyer practises. The Law Society and its staff cannot provide legal advice nor can it assist you in making a claim.

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If you still have questions Open  

If you have other questions or concerns, you are invited to communicate with us by telephone for further explanation. Please remember that we cannot give you legal advice, and we are not permitted to give our opinion over the telephone.

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