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Our latest news highlights:
- 2012 Report on Performance now available
- Benchers rescind rule 3.6-3, commentary  from the BC Code
- CBA document calls for improvements to justice system
- The Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia is in effect
- Designated paralegals – pilot project begins
- Amendments to the Legal Profession Act
- PST returns April 1
2012 Report on Performance now available
[posted April 9, 2013]
The Law Society’s annual report provides a progress update on the first year of our 2012-2014 Strategic Plan and a review of our regulatory performance. Key performance and bellwether measures evaluate the effectiveness of our programs and are a critical part of our regulatory transparency, intended to inform the public as well as lawyers, the media and government.
Read the 2012 Law Society Report on Performance.
Benchers rescind rule 3.6-3, commentary  from the BC Code
[posted April 8, 2013]
[originally posted March 7; updated April 5, 2013]
On April 5, 2013 the Benchers rescinded rule 3.6-3, commentary  of the BC Code. The Benchers requested that the Ethics Committee consult the profession further about commentary  and, in light of the consultation, make a recommendation to the Benchers to:
- restore commentary  in its current form,
- restore commentary  in a modified form, or
- permanently eliminate commentary .
Although rule 3.6-3, commentary  has been rescinded, the rule itself and commentary  remain in place and state:
Statement of account
3.6-3 In a statement of an account delivered to a client, a lawyer must clearly and separately detail the amounts charged as fees and disbursements.
 Party-and-party costs received by a lawyer are the property of the client and should therefore be accounted for to the client. While an agreement that the lawyer will be entitled to costs is not uncommon, it does not affect the lawyer’s obligation to disclose the costs to the client.
Commentary , now rescinded, stated:
 The two main categories of charges on a statement of account are fees and disbursements. A lawyer may charge as disbursements only those amounts that have been paid or are required to be paid to a third party by the lawyer on a client’s behalf. However, a subcategory entitled “Other Charges” may be included under the fees heading if a lawyer wishes to separately itemize charges such as paralegal, word processing or computer costs that are not disbursements, provided that the client has agreed, in writing, to such costs.
Commentary  has been in place in Alberta for 22 years and is now part of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada Model Code of Professional Conduct. Five of the six provinces that have adopted the Model Code have included commentary  in their codes, including British Columbia. Manitoba has adopted the Model Code but did not include commentary . Ontario has not yet determined whether to adopt commentary .
Some of the criticisms British Columbia lawyers have made about commentary  include:
- The commentary requirement that the client agree in writing to the “other charges” is onerous and unnecessary.
- Lawyers, legal accounting software developers and bookkeepers have not had sufficient time to update, distribute and install software and change billing practices in order to accommodate the commentary billing requirements.
- The changes required by the commentary will be further complicated by PST charges when those come into effect on April 1, 2013.
- Some decisions of the Registrar establish that certain charges that are not payment to third parties, in particular photocopying costs and on-line legal research, are not “fees.”
- Although the commentary properly distinguishes between true third-party disbursements and other charges that could contain a profit component, the commentary goes too far in requiring the “other charges” to necessarily be included in the fees component of a lawyer’s account.
While the Ethics Committee believes that a lawyer’s duty of candour with respect to fees, charges and disbursements requires a high degree of disclosure to clients, the rescission of commentary  will permit the Ethics Committee and Benchers to have a second look at what the appropriate commentary for this issue ought to be.
Lawyers who wish to make comments on this issue are requested to do so by letter or email by April 30, 2013 by contacting:
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
CBA document calls for improvements to justice system
[posted February 7, 2013]
The Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch has issued its platform document, An Agenda for Justice, calling on all candidates in the next provincial election to support specific short-term and long-term actions to increase the effectiveness of BC’s justice system and improve BC laws.
“The Law Society welcomes any and all ideas to address the challenges facing our justice system,” said Law Society President Art Vertlieb. “These are complex issues requiring the collaboration of all stakeholders.”
The Law Society remains intent on helping find solutions. In addition to being represented on the steering committee developing the government’s upcoming Justice Summit, the Law Society has recently taken several steps to improve access to justice, including expanding the range of legal services that can be provided by paralegals and articled students.
The Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia is in effect
[posted January 9, 2013]
On January 1, 2013, the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia (BC Code) came into effect. The BC Code, which replaces the Professional Conduct Handbook, is the new ethical guide for the legal profession in BC. While many of the principles contained in the Handbook have been preserved in the BC Code, the new document should provide greater guidance for lawyers facing an ethical dilemma.
For more information, see “The Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia” in the Winter 2012 Benchers' Bulletin.
The Law Society and Continuing Legal Education Society of BC are also offering free courses on the new BC Code. Information is available on the CLE website.
Lawyers with questions about the BC Code should contact a Practice Advisor.
Designated paralegals – pilot project begins
[posted January 9, 2013]
January 1 marked the start date of a new two-year pilot project that allows designated paralegals, working under the supervision of a lawyer, to make limited appearances in some court registries to deal with certain applications in family law. The pilot project will run until December 31, 2014.
The pilot project is in addition to changes approved by the Benchers in July that allow designated paralegals to give legal advice to clients.
The aim of these reforms is to improve access to justice.
For more information about designated paralegals giving legal advice, as well as information about the pilot project, including a list of permitted appearances, the affidavit to be presented on first appearance and a list of participating court registries, see Paralegals.
Amendments to the Legal Profession Act
[posted January 9, 2013]
The Legal Profession Amendment Act, 2012 received Royal Assent on May 14, 2012. Many amendments made by the new Act were effective immediately, but many were unproclaimed.
On January 1, 2013, several of the unproclaimed amendments came into effect, including: the definitions of “conduct unbecoming a lawyer” and “review board” (new) and sections 6, 9, 42, 44, 44.1 Application of Administrative Tribunals Act (new), 46 to 48 and 87. The following sections were repealed: s. 31 Special Compensation Fund, s. 40 Medical examination and s. 45 Order for compliance. There is also a new section 50, a transitional provision of the Legal Profession Amendment Act, 2012 that deals with the closing out of the Special Compensation Fund.
See the Legal Profession Act.
PST returns April 1
[posted January 9, 2013]
British Columbia will return to the provincial sales tax on April 1, 2013. The Law Society will provide lawyers with assistance regarding the transition. When available, information will be posted in practice support and resources.
In the meantime, lawyers with questions about transitioning back to the PST should contact Law Society Practice Advisor Dave Bilinsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.