If a lawyer is unable to continue to practice law because of mental or physical illness, death, retirement, suspension, disbarment or for another justifiable reason the Law Society may apply to the court pursuant to the Law Society Act, 1999, SNL 1999, c. L-9.1 for the appointment of a custodian to take over the law practice.
The person appointed as custodian must be a practising lawyer and is usually, but not always, a Law Society staff lawyer. The custodian will generally be directed by the Court to take custody of clients’ property and to manage, arrange for the conduct of, or terminate the law practice.
Role of the Custodian
The custodian will normally:
- take custody of all active and closed files, bank accounts and the accounting records of the practice;
- contact clients with open files and valuable documents to advise them of the appointment of the custodian and of any apparent concerns about their files;
- act on the clients’ behalf on matters of immediate and urgent concern;
- assist clients to locate a new lawyer to complete their matters, and deliver the open client files and/or trust funds to the clients or their new lawyers after obtaining written instructions; and
- ensure that trust funds are properly accounted for and paid out to the appropriate recipients.
What to do when the Custodian contacts you
If your lawyer’s practice is being managed or terminated by a custodian, the custodian will contact you to discuss your file(s).
Except in urgent or unusual circumstances, the custodian is not able to take over conduct of a legal matter. If you have an ongoing legal matter, you should tell the custodian and ask for assistance to find another lawyer.
Your new lawyer can request your file, and the custodian will then send the file to the lawyer. If you do not have a new lawyer, in most circumstances you can arrange to pick up the file at the Law Society, or we can arrange for a lawyer in your community to act as the Law Society’s agent to deliver the file. You will have to produce valid photo identification at the time you pick up the file and sign forms acknowledging receipt of the file(s).
If you owe your lawyer money for past legal services, the file cannot be released to you or your new lawyer until you have paid those fees. This does not apply to some original, valuable documents, such as wills.
If you have questions, please contact;
Administrative Assistant (Custodianship)
Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador
PO Box 1028
St. John’s, NL A1C 5M3
Telephone: (709) 758-0822
Fax: (709) 722-8902