Procedure for Withdrawing Services continued

Transferring a Former Client's File

The contents of the client's file will have to be transferred to the new lawyer. When the retainer is terminated, you must deliver to the client the contents of the file that belong to the client, and at no charge (assuming no outstanding accounts exist), or to the new lawyer. It is appropriate to charge for photocopying where the contents have already been provided to the client. Confirm in writing the client's permission for you to communicate with new counsel, and transfer the file to him or her.

If there is a dispute as to ownership of the contents of the client's file, take time to research the law to determine which documents you are entitled to keep. As a general guideline, review the suggestions in the Law Society of Ontario's article, “File Transfer on Termination of Retainer”; see also “Whose File is it Anyway?” by Morris, Folk, and Vamplew, but note that it was written in 1994 (see the Additional Resources section for details).

Take time to consult document retention requirements (see the module on File Retention) to ensure you are keeping all documents that you are required to retain (e.g., trust accounting records). It is very important to also keep documents that might help you defend against an action for professional misconduct or negligence. Note important limitation periods for such actions.