New Client Identification Rules

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New Client Identification Rules

“May I please see some ID”, is a phrase you hear at a bar or liquor store, in Medicine Hat.  You can add your lawyer’s office to this list of places due to the Alberta Law Society’s Client Identification and Verification Rules.

You might be wondering whether lawyers are becoming less trusting of their clients, and what brought on this change.  These Rules came into effect to prevent money laundering.  Alberta (and other provincial law societies) commenced this initiative to meet the federal government’s concerns on crime prevention.  Similar Rules have been established in other provinces..

As the name of these Rules suggest, there are 2 component parts, Identification and Verification.

In the Identification process, lawyers are required to obtain some basic information from their clients when the lawyer starts providing legal services.  Even if your lawyer has been dealing with you for many years, or you see them all the time at the Medicine Hat Tiger’s hockey games, this Rule still applies to you.  Your lawyer will need to obtain and record your full name, business address/telephone number, home address/telephone number and occupation.  Lawyers will be able to use terms like retired, homemaker and volunteer as your occupation, where applicable.

If the client is an organization, like a limited company, corporation or society, the identification will consist of the business’ name, address, phone number, the business incorporation or identification number, the nature of the business and contact information of the business owner (directors and shareholders).

A lawyer’s duty to verify their client’s identity arises when the lawyer is hired to receive, pay or transfer money on behalf of a client.  In these cases, your ID is reviewed by your lawyer and copied to the lawyer’s file.  Documents used for verification include your driver’s licence, birth certificate or passport.  For people who do not own a driver’s licence or passport, they should consider applying for the provincial identification card.  For organizations, verification documents will include incorporation documents, annual returns and the contact information for directors, and shareholders who own more than a 25% interest in the business.

The Rules do provide limited exceptions to the verification requirements in some cases; for example, a lawyer does not need to verify the identity of a banker who is advancing mortgage funds for their client.

Under the Rules, a lawyer cannot act for an individual or organization who does not provide the information required for either Identification or Verification.   The lawyer has the added obligation to withdraw from acting for a client when the lawyer knows or ought to know the client is involved in fraud or other illegal conduct.

Lawyers are required to record and store the information they have received for at least 6 years after the work was completed for their client.  Some law firms have implemented electronic data storage with password protection so the physical information is not retained..

If you would like to find out more information about these Rules, you can access the Alberta Law Society website:

Now more than ever, you will want to look your best for your next licence renewal photograph.

Les Scholly
Les Scholly helps you navigate the turning points of life. He is a partner with Pritchard & Co. Law Firm, LLP and member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). Contact Les at 403-527-4411 or at