Lawyers come in many shapes and specialties—meaning they can help clients with any issue. While you’re likely familiar with employment and family lawyers, you may be less familiar with some of the more specialized but critical legal specializations, like administrative lawyers! 

So, what does an administrative lawyer do, and how do you know when you need one? We’ll explore the role of administrative lawyers below and how they help their clients. 

What is Administrative Law? 

Administrative law refers to regulating relationships between citizens and their government (or organizations acting on behalf of the government). In some cases, administrative law also comes into play in relationships between individuals (for example, disputes handled by the Landlord and Tenant Board) or between professionals and a professional regulator (for example, lawyers and the Law Society of Ontario). 

What often unites administrative law issues is that they are handled by administrative tribunals—which are court-like bodies set up by the provincial government to handle disputes. While administrative tribunals aren’t courts, per se, they function much like a court and make determinations on administrative law issues. 

Despite this, administrative tribunal decisions can be reviewed by the courts. In these cases, the courts apply review principles unique to administrative law, including standard of review and procedural fairness analyses. Given the specialized nature of administrative law processes, consulting with an experienced administrative lawyer for guidance on administrative law matters is essential. 

How Can Administrative Lawyers Help Me? 

Unlike many areas of the law, which deal with specific legal issues (for example, real estate law), administrative lawyers deal with various legal issues handled under the unique administrative law process. 

Below, we’ll outline a few examples of situations where administrative lawyers can help you.

Often, the best legal strategy is preparation. You can proactively avoid legal issues or disputes by understanding your legal obligations.

Working with an administrative lawyer—whether as an individual, a business owner, a professional, or otherwise—clients can empower themselves with the knowledge to understand better the administrative law framework and how it impacts their compliance obligations. 

For example, working with an administrative lawyer can be helpful in the following scenarios: 

  • Understanding your professional obligations as a lawyer, accountant, engineer, social worker, or other regulated professional; 
  • Understanding your obligations under the Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19 or other relevant legislation as an employer or human resources professional; 
  • Understanding changing regulations and licensing obligations as a business owner; 
  • Understanding your obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 17

Professional Regulation 

A regulatory body oversees many professions, including accountants, health professionals, lawyers, and social workers. These regulators act in the public’s interest by governing how these professionals practice, investigating complaints, and disciplining professionals for malpractice. 

What happens when you’re a professional facing an investigation or disciplinary proceeding? That’s where an administrative lawyer comes in. Administrative lawyers—particularly those with professional liability experience—can help you with every aspect of your case, from understanding the allegations being made against you to representing you before the regulatory body and beyond. 

Appearing Before Administrative Tribunals

In Ontario, administrative tribunals handle various disputes, ranging from human rights complaints to landlord-tenant disputes to licence appeals. Each tribunal has unique rules relating to the types of issues they can decide and the processes for bringing or defending yourself against claims. 

A great starting point for learning about Ontario’s administrative tribunals is Tribunals Ontario, which provides more information about the thirteen adjudicative tribunals in Ontario. Keep in mind, however, that these are not the only administrative tribunals that operate in Ontario. 

While appearing before an administrative tribunal is not typically as formal as appearing in court, it still requires significant knowledge and preparation. By engaging an administrative lawyer, you can rest assured that you will have expert guidance and representation. Administrative lawyers can help you understand the steps required, gather and organize your evidence, draft the accompanying documents, and, if appropriate, represent you before the administrative tribunal. 

Judicial Review of Administrative Tribunal Decisions

Sometimes, appearing before an administrative tribunal is only the beginning. For example, if you disagree with the administrative tribunal’s decision, you must determine whether you want to appeal the decision. In some cases, you may have recourse to have the decision reconsidered within the administrative tribunal. In other cases, you may need to seek judicial review (a process whereby the court is called upon to determine whether the administrative tribunal’s decision was appropriate). 

Much like appearing before an administrative tribunal, administrative lawyers can help guide you through the process of your appeal. If the administrative lawyer represented you when you appeared before the administrative tribunal, they can also carry on representing you for your appeal. 

When Should I Speak to an Administrative Lawyer? 

It’s unclear when you need to speak with an administrative lawyer. 

However, suppose you’re dealing with matters relating to your or your business’s relationship with a government entity or an administrative tribunal. In that case, chances are that an administrative lawyer will be able to help. And, if you’re not sure, it never hurts to reach out to an administrative lawyer to determine whether they can help with your issue. 

When Is The Right Time To Speak To An Administrative Lawyer? 

The right time to speak to an administrative lawyer will ultimately depend on your goals. For example, you’ll likely have more flexibility if you seek general guidance on your legal obligations and how they interact with administrative law. 

On the other hand, if you’re either planning to bring a claim or responding to a claim in an administrative tribunal, you’ll need to act quickly. Remember that the timelines for administrative law cases can vary depending on the tribunal in question, and it’s essential to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss relevant deadlines that could impact your rights concerning the matter. 

Contact Tierney Stauffer LLP in Ottawa, Kingston, Cornwall and North Bay for Exceptional Administrative Law Representation 

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our administrative law and professional liability lawyers are thorough, efficient, and focused on delivering the best outcomes for our clients. From compliance to judicial review (and everything in between), we work hard to provide the support clients need to understand their compliance obligations or resolve their issues. Contact us online or at 1-888-799-8057 to discuss how we can help with your administrative law matter. 


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