How do Lawyers Assist Their Clients With Advance Care Planning? Findings From a Cross-Sectional Survey of Lawyers in Alberta


  • Nola M. Ries BA (Hons) JD, MPA, LLM, Associate Professor and Member of the Law|Health|Justice Research Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney, Australia and External Research Fellow, Health Law Institute, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta, Canada.
  • Maureen Douglas BA, LLB, Senior Project Coordinator, Advance Care Planning Collaborative Research and Innovation Opportunities Program, University of Alberta.
  • Jessica Simon
  • Konrad Fassbender PhD, Assistant Professor and Scientific Director, Covenant Health Palliative Institute, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta.



Advance care planning (ACP) is the process of thinking about, discussing and documenting one’s preferences for future health care. ACP has important benefits: people who have a written directive are more likely to receive care that accords with their preferences, have fewer hospitalizations, and die in their preferred location. This article focuses on the important role that legal professionals have in advising and assisting clients with ACP. Studies report that people who have a written advance care plan are more likely to have received assistance in preparing the document from a lawyer than from a doctor. Yet virtually no research engages with the legal profession to understand lawyers’ attitudes, beliefs, and practices in this important area. This article starts to fill this gap by reporting the findings of a survey of lawyers in the province of Alberta. The results reveal lawyers’ practices in relation to ACP, their perceptions of their professional role and factors that support or hinder lawyers in working with clients on ACP, and their preferences for resources to assist them in helping their clients. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first survey of lawyers on their practices in relation to ACP.

Author Biography

Jessica Simon

MD, FRCPC, Associate Professor and Division Head for Palliative Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, and Physician Consultant, Advance Care Planning and Goals of Care, Calgary Zone, Alberta Health Services.