LSO Direction regarding remote client identification

  • March 18, 2020

Please note that as a result of COVID-19 the Law Society of Ontario has provided pertinent information lawyers should consider when identifying and verifying client identity and whether this can be done remotely and/or virtually. Chief is for lawyers to consider whether they are identifying or verifying a client’s identity.

Identifying the client means obtaining certain basic information about your client and any third party directing, instructing or who has the authority to direct or instruct your client, such as a name and address. You must obtain this information whenever you are retained to provide legal services to a client unless an exemption applies. This step can be done over the phone or by video conference. There is no requirement that it be completed face-to-face.

Verifying the identity of a client means actually looking at an original identifying document from an independent source to ensure that your clients and any third parties are who they say they are. You are only required to verify the identity of your client and such third parties if you are involved in a funds transfer activity, that is, you engage in or instruct with respect to the payment, receipt or transfer of funds, and an exception does not apply.

Verification of client identity occurs face-to-face unless

  • The individual whose identity is being verified is present in Canada and an attestation from a commissioner of oaths or other guarantor is provided; or
  • The individual whose identity is being verified is not present in Canada and verification is provided by an agent.

Further information is available here or through the Law Society’s Client Identification and Verification Requirements resources. For specific information about attestations or retaining an agent, please see Appendices 4, 5, 7, and 8.