Practitioners of Foreign Law

Information sheet and application forms 

A practitioner of foreign law is defined in the Law Society Rules as "a person qualified to practise law in a country other than Canada or in an internal jurisdiction of that country, who gives legal advice in BC respecting the laws of that country or of the internal jurisdiction in which that person is qualified” (Law Society Rule 1).

If you are qualified to practise law in a country other than Canada, or an internal jurisdiction of that country, and you give legal advice in British Columbia respecting the laws of that country or internal jurisdiction, you must have a Practitioner of Foreign Law Permit (Rule 1). To protect the public, the Law Society regulates practitioners of foreign law in BC to ensure that only qualified persons provide legal services relating to other countries.

How to apply for a permit
How to renew a permit

BC Lawyers who wish to practise foreign law 

Eligibility

Practitioners of foreign law must:

  • Be a member of the legal profession in one or more foreign jurisdictions (Law Society Rule 2-18).
  • Have practised the law the foreign jurisdiction for at least three of the past five years, or undertake in writing to act as a practitioner of foreign law in BC only under the direct supervision of a practitioner of foreign law who has practised law in that foreign jurisdiction for at least three of the past five years.
  • Have a permit from the Law Society of BC

If you do not have a valid permit and you act as a practitioner of foreign law or hold yourself out as such, you are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and are subject to prosecution or to injunction proceedings by the Law Society.

Practitioners of foreign law are not required to reside in BC and may offer services on a full-time or part-time basis. A foreign lawyer who comes BC infrequently, or even once, to advise a member of the public about the laws of his or her home jurisdiction must first obtain a permit to act as a practitioner of foreign law.

A lawyer who is a member of the Law Society of BC (other than a retired or non-practising member) and who is also qualified to practise law in a foreign jurisdiction may act as a practitioner of foreign law in BC without obtaining a permit. To do so, you must hold liability insurance that specifically extends to your activities as a practitioner of foreign law in BC and is in a form and amount at least reasonably comparable to that required of lawyers under Law Society Rule 3-21(1).

Obligations of a practitioner of foreign law

  • You must maintain membership in good standing in the legal profession of any foreign jurisdiction in which you are licensed to practise law as long as you hold a permit to act as a practitioner of foreign law.
  • You must inform the Law Society immediately if you are the subject of criminal or professional discipline proceedings or cease to be a member in good standing of the legal profession in any jurisdiction.
  • You must provide evidence that you carry professional liability insurance or a bond, indemnity or other security that is comparable in form and amount to that required of BC lawyers under Law Society Rule 3-21(1) and that specifically extends to your services as a practitioner of foreign law while acting as such in BC. If the insurance lapses or is cancelled, the permit automatically ceases to be valid (Law Society Rule 2-18(6)).
  • You must inform the Law Society of the cancellation of, or any significant change to your liability insurance coverage.
  • You must not deal in any way with funds that would, if accepted, held, transferred or otherwise dealt with by a lawyer, constitute trust funds, except money received on deposit for fees earned in the future.
  • You are required to comply with the Legal Profession Act, Law Society Rules and Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia.

Services and conditions

A practitioner of foreign law holding a valid permit may provide legal services in BC respecting the law of the jurisdiction in which you are fully licensed to practise law, and respecting trans-jurisdictional or international legal transactions (Law Society Rule 2-19).

You must not provide advice respecting the law of BC or another Canadian jurisdiction, or deal in any way with funds that would, if accepted, held, transferred or otherwise dealt with by a lawyer, constitute trust funds, except money received on deposit for fees to be earned in the future by the practitioner.

You are not permitted to appear as counsel on behalf of a client before any BC or federal court or administrative tribunal, are not permitted to advise a client about the law of BC, and are not permitted to draft, revise or settle documents, or perform any of the other functions described in the definition of the practice of law (Section 1, Legal Professional Act) insofar as they relate to the practice of BC law.

If you engage in any activity encompassed by the definition of the practice of law, other than providing legal services respecting the law of the jurisdiction in which you are fully licensed to practise, or respecting trans-jurisdictional or international legal transactions, you are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and is liable to prosecution or to injunction proceedings by the Law Society.

The Executive Director of the Law Society may attach conditions to a permit to act as a practitioner of foreign law. The conditions must have been authorized by the Credentials Committee. (Law Society Rule 2-18).

Marketing and advertising

A practitioner of foreign law who engages in any marketing activity must comply with section 4.2 of the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia which entitles you to use any medium of communication to undertake or authorize any marketing activity that is factual, accurate and verifiable and that maintains a high standard of professionalism.

Section 4.2 limits the types of representations that may be made, prescribes the circumstances in which a statement of fees for specific legal services may be published, restricts the circumstances in which a "preferred area of practice" may be stated and prevents use of the title "specialist" or any similar designation suggesting a recognized status or accreditation.

You must, when engaged in any marketing activity:

  • use the term "practitioner of foreign law;"
  • state the foreign jurisdiction in which he or she holds professional legal qualifications, and the professional title used in that jurisdiction; and
  • not use any designation or make any representation from which a recipient might reasonably conclude that the practitioner is a member of the Law Society of BC.

If you work with a BC law firm, your name may be shown on the letterhead if you are clearly designated as a practitioner of foreign law.

For more information, contact Member Services






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