How to Trace the History of a Law Society Rule of Professional Conduct

Every so often, we’re asked to find previous versions of a Law Society of Ontario Rule of Professional Conduct. It’s not as straightforward as doing a legislative history of a section of a statute – not that a legislative history is always straightforward!

Believe it or not, the sources you need to trace the history of most Law Society Rules of Professional Conduct can be found on the web. It’s the path to the answer that can be tricky.

Let’s begin with a current Rule, such as Rule 7.4: The Lawyer in Public Office. The current Rules of Professional Conduct are available on the Law Society’s website here. The current Rules took effect on October 1, 2014, when the Law Society of Ontario implemented the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Conduct.  At this time, all rule numbering changed.

So what was Rule 7.4’s corresponding rule number prior to October 1, 2014? Fortunately, there is a Table of Concordance that tells us it was Rule 6.05. To view this version of the rule, see the former Rules of Professional Conduct that were in effect between November 1, 2000 and October 1, 2014.

But we need to go back further. At this point we recommend reading Darryl Robinson’s article, “Ethical Evolution: The Development of the Professional Conduct Handbook of The Law Society of Upper Canada” (1995) 29 The Law Society Gazette 162. This article traces the development of the Rules and includes a handy “Table of History of Provisions”. Using this table, you can continue to trace the rule back and find that:

  • From January 30, 1987, to October 2000, it was Rule 18.
  • From December 1978 to 1986, it was Rule 9.
  • And from 1964 to 1978, it was ruling 13. (The 1964 Professional Conduct Handbook was the Law Society’s first handbook. It contained rulings rather than rules.)

To find the text of these relevant older rules, consult the Professional Conduct Handbooks from 1964 to 1998 available on the Law Society’s Digital Collections page.  (Print editions are also available in the Great Library’s collection.)

And if you need any further guidance in researching the Rules of Professional Conduct, just ask us!