Client Identification

Application to Lawyers

The Client Identification Rules apply to all lawyers who are retained by a client to provide legal services, except when:

  • providing legal services to an employer (e.g. in-house counsel);
  • acting as agent for another lawyer who has already identified (and perhaps verified) the client; or
  • acting for a client referred by another lawyer who has already identified (and perhaps verified) the client. 

With respect to the second and third circumstances listed above, you must make and keep a record of your efforts to ascertain that the other lawyer identified (and perhaps verified) the client. When another lawyer retains you as an agent or refers a matter to you, you are allowed to rely on that lawyer’s confirmation that they identified the client, provided that the lawyer is entitled to practice law in another Canadian jurisdiction (or is an advocate or notary in Quebec). Note that only Canadian lawyers are included in the definition of “lawyer”. If the agent or referring lawyer is outside of Canada, you must independently perform the client identification (and perhaps verification).

Understanding the difference between identification and verification is important. If you are conducting identification, you review the identification documents and keep notes of the client’s name, address, telephone number and occupation but do not photocopy and retain the document except with express consent by the client. If you are conducting verification, you are required to make and keep copies of the documents.

Not Retained

In general, client identification is not required when a lawyer provides legal advice without being retained, such as when a lawyer is:

  • acting as duty counsel providing legal services as part of a duty counsel program sponsored by a not-for-profit organization (unless the lawyer is involved in a financial transaction);
  • at a non-profit legal clinic or legal information line that provides summary legal advice (unless the lawyer at the clinic or legal information line agrees to the ongoing representation of a person);
  • providing summary advice over the phone and is not retained in the traditional sense, unless the lawyer charges fees or disbursements in the context of a consultation even if no ongoing retainer subsequently exists; or
  • acting as a friend of the court, assisting unrepresented parties on their own initiatives, unless the services move beyond the provision of summary legal advice or if the lawyer charges a fee or undertakes to represent an individual on an ongoing basis.

See the Interpretation Guide for more information about these exceptions.

Not Providing Legal Advice

Client identification is not required when a lawyer does not provide legal advice, such as a lawyer who is acting as:

  • a mediator who is not providing legal advice or legal services; or
  • a notary or commissioner, when the lawyer does not provide legal advice or other services.
Last modified: Monday, 21 August 2023, 9:26 AM