All About Estates

Update to Virtual Verification of Client Identity Requirements

During the pandemic, when it was often impossible to meet with new clients in-person to verify their identity, emergency measures were put in place allowing lawyers to meet with a client virtually for that purpose. Those emergency measures officially come to an end January 1, 2024, when new Law Society of Ontario by-laws come into effect.

Basic Client Identification and Verification Requirements

As a reminder, subsection 22(1) of Part III of by-law 7.1 set out a lawyer’s obligation to obtain and verify a client’s identification. There are two parts to this obligation:

  1. Client identification requirement: When a lawyer is retained to provide legal services, the lawyer must obtain basic information about their client. The information needed, which includes the client’s name, occupation, telephone, and mailing address, is set out in detail at subsection 23(1) of by-law 7.1.
  2. Client verification requirement: When a lawyer will be receiving, paying, or transferring funds to, from, or for the client, the lawyer must also verify the client’s identification. The verification requirements, which are set out in detail in subsections 23(4)-23(13) of by-law 7.1, are fulfilled by obtaining the following documents, data, and information from a client who is an individual (different rules apply to corporations or organizations who are clients):

(i) a current government issued photo identification document (excluding documents issued by a municipal government);

(ii) information in the individual’s credit file that is located in Canada and has been in existence for at least three years; or

(iii) any two of the following pieces of information, each from a different source (the source cannot be the client or the lawyer):

  1. information from a reliable source that contains the individual’s name and address,
  2. information from a reliable source that contains the individual’s name and date of birth,
  3. information that contains the individual’s name and confirms that they have a deposit account, credit card or other loan amount with a financial institution.

The exceptions to when a lawyer is required to confirm and/or verify their client’s identity are set out in subsections 22(2)-22(4) of by-law 7.1. The Law Society of Ontario has created a flow chart summarizing the client ID rules and requirements, which can be found here. The Law Society has also created a helpful (and colourful) summary of the various options for verifying a client’s identity here.

Changes to Virtual Verification of a Client’s Identity

Prior to the pandemic, the process of verifying a client’s identity had to occur in person. This remains an option for all lawyers: the lawyer can continue to meet with a client in person, review their source(s) of identification (for example, a current, valid, driver’s licence), and take a copy for their records.

The ability to verify a client’s identity virtually which was introduced during the pandemic will continue, with some modifications. The updated by-law 7.1, which comes into effect in 2024, will allow a lawyer to verify a client’s identity virtually by:

(i) Obtaining a high-resolution image of the client’s government-issued photo identification document which can be sent to the lawyer by email; and

(ii) Using technology to confirm that the government-issued photo identification is valid and matches the client.

It is the second step, the use of technology, which is new. To help practitioners better understand this new requirement, the Law Society of Ontario summarized them and created an FAQ, which can be found here.

The Law Society of Ontario has refrained from endorsing any particular technology program or company to be used in the virtual verification process. Rather, the Law Society has confirmed that any of the technology products listed in the Digital Identification and Authentication Council of Canada’s directory, found here, will allow a lawyer to comply with the new regulations.

Since the start of the pandemic, clients have become accustomed to the flexibility and convenience offered by Zoom meetings. Lawyers who want to continue accommodating this preference will need to decide whether, and which, technology they will incorporate into their practice. There remains a few short weeks to make the decision.

About Gillian Fournie
Gillian is a lawyer with de VRIES LITIGATION LLP. Her practice focuses on the area of trusts and estates litigation. More of Gillian's blogs can be found at


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