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Our latest news highlights:

SCC decision

[posted February 13, 2015]

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada announced its decision in Attorney General of Canada v. Federation of Law Societies of Canada on the applicability of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and its regulations to members of the legal profession. Its decision upheld the 2013 decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which ruled that the regulation of the legal profession by Canada’s law societies provided an effective and constitutional anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regime. This decision protects the public against government interference in the confidential relationship between a lawyer and a client.

The Court recognized that as a principle of fundamental justice, the state cannot impose duties on lawyers that undermine their duty of commitment to their clients’ causes. Moreover, the maintenance of solicitor-client privilege is integral to the public’s confidence in the administration of justice. The Law Society has rules requiring legal professionals to identify their clients, as well as cash transaction rules. These rules ensure lawyers have clear obligations that protect against money laundering and terrorist financing.

In making this decision, the court accepted that adequate client identification and record-keeping practices were already in place by virtue of the law societies’ regulation of their members, and held that all legal professionals are exempt from the legislation.

The Law Society of BC is pleased with this decision. This lengthy debate began in British Columbia 15 years ago, and throughout the process the Law Society worked with the Federation, the Canadian Bar Association, the Barreau Du Quebec, and the Chambre des notaires du Quebec to bring this important matter to a successful and just conclusion.

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Ethics Committee consults lawyers regarding changes to “institutional lender” in BC Code

[posted January 30, 2015]

[updated; originally posted December 18, 2014]

At their December 5, 2014 meeting, the Benchers passed changes to Appendix C of the BC Code to restrict the kinds of institutional lenders that lawyers can represent jointly with mortgagors to banks, trust companies or credit unions. Since that time, a number of lawyers have raised concerns about the effect of these changes and on January 30, 2015 the Benchers rescinded the changes to allow the Ethics Committee to have further consultation with the profession. 

The objections to the December 5 changes centre on a concern that life insurance companies (e.g. Manulife, etc.) and the “monoline” institutional lenders (e.g. First National, Street Capital, MCAP, etc.) ought to be listed with banks, credit unions and trust companies, as they comprise a large part of the residential mortgage market and can generally be distinguished from other private lenders by the fact that they allow the borrower to pick the lawyer who acts for both the borrower and the lender in a transaction. It has also been suggested to the committee that mortgage investment corporations, which are typically full-fledged lending institutions with mortgage portfolios of over a couple hundred million dollars, should also be legitimately considered to be institutional lenders in some circumstances for the purpose of the rules. Other lawyers may have other suggestions.

Lawyers who wish to make comments on this issue are requested to do so by letter or email by March 31, 2015 by contacting:

Jack Olsen
Staff Lawyer – Ethics
Law Society of BC
845 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC  V6B 4Z9
Tel. direct: 604.443.5711
Toll-free: 1.800.903.5300
Email: jolsen@lsbc.org

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Law Society files response to TWU petition

[posted January 16, 2015]

On January 16, the Law Society filed its response to Trinity Western University’s petition seeking a judicial review of the Society’s decision not to approve its proposed law school.

Law Society response
TWU petition

For more information and background on this issue, see Trinity Western University: proposed law school.

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Meet Law Society President Ken Walker, QC

[posted January 6, 2015]

Ken Walker, QC, will serve as Law Society President for 2015.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Walker has been practising for four decades in Kamloops, representing the region as a Bencher for the last eight. He now practises alongside his son, Kevin, at Wozniak and Walker. Together, they continue the tradition of helping people tackle legal problems in an efficient and affordable way.

Walker has a wealth of experience working in rural BC communities, and has been deeply affected by the number of access to justice issues he comes across in the course of his work. As a result, this will be one of the challenges he will work to address during his tenure as President.

Walker will officially be sworn in as President on January 30, 2015. His full biography can be read in the most recent edition of the Benchers’ Bulletin.

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Trinity Western University files petition for judicial review

[posted December 18, 2014]

On December 18, 2014 Trinity Western University commenced proceedings seeking a judicial review of the Law Society's decision not to approve its proposed law school.

The Law Society will be defending its decision and will respond to the petition within the time provided under the rules of court.

The petition can be viewed here.

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Rule changes: cloud computing

[posted November 7, 2014]

The Benchers have adopted rule changes based on the report and recommendations of the Cloud Computing Working Group.

The amendments address:

  • the requirements for electronic data storage and processing;
  • producing records in a complaint investigation or forensic audit; and
  • third-party storage providers and security.

For more details, see Highlights of amendments to the Rules.

Lawyers are also reminded to refer to the Cloud computing checklist if they are considering storing law practice data in the cloud.

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Webcasting and online voting for general meetings

[posted November 7, 2014]

The Benchers have accepted the Governance Committee's recommendation that the Law Society Rules be updated to allow for greater and easier participation by members in general meetings.

The Benchers have referred the issue of webcasting general meetings and online voting at general meetings to the Act and Rules Committee, with a direction to develop the necessary amendments to provide the Benchers with the discretion to permit members to participate by webcast and to vote online.

The Governance Committee expects to report to the Benchers in early 2015 regarding seeking membership approval for further amendments to the Rules about the physical locations for general meetings and electronic distribution of notices and other meeting materials.

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Bencher meeting decision – Law school not approved for Law Society’s admission program

[posted October 31, 2014]

In a meeting on October 31, BC Law Society Benchers have decided not to approve a proposed law school at Trinity Western University for the purpose of the Law Society’s admission program.

This decision comes after careful consideration of the outcome of a referendum of BC lawyers conducted in October, together with the many other factors related to this issue.

The Benchers decided to hold a referendum after a resolution was passed at a special general meeting in June directing the Benchers to disapprove of the proposed law school. The Legal Profession Act provides that a member resolution can be made binding by referendum within 12 months following the general meeting at which it was adopted. The Benchers decided to accelerate the process to provide certainty now rather than leave the issue open until next June.

More information can be found here.

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Referendum results – BC Lawyers say TWU should not be an approved school of law

[posted October 30, 2014]

In a referendum vote, 5,951 BC lawyers say that the Benchers should not approve a proposed law school at Trinity Western University for the purpose of the Law Society’s admission program. The outcome of the referendum will be discussed at a Bencher meeting on October 31.

The referendum was conducted by mail-in ballot, and required one-third of BC’s lawyers to participate and two-thirds to vote in favour in order to pass. The vote was 5,951 (74%) in favour and 2,088 (26%) against, out of 8,039 valid ballots. Thirteen thousand, five hundred thirty practising, non-practising and retired lawyers were entitled to vote.

More information regarding the accreditation of TWU can be found here.

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