Notice to the Profession
June 23, 2020

During the current stage of BC’s Restart Plan, several law firms and lawyers have begun to resume safe operations at their office workplaces. With the next phase of the plan drawing nearer, some lawyers have been asking for more information about limitation periods, remote signing of wills and other documents, and what will happen with other COVID response measures when the state of emergency ends. In this notice, you will find information about recent legislative measures that have been introduced by the provincial government and will assist your planning.

Provincial legislation to extend COVID-19 orders when state of emergency ends

The provincial government has introduced the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, legislation that will allow for measures created in response to the pandemic to be formalized or unwound as appropriate after the provincial state of emergency ends. The legislation will extend specific ministerial orders, including orders for limitation periods, electronic witnessing of enduring powers of attorney and representation agreements, electronic witnessing of wills and Supreme Court and Family applications, by 45 or 90 days after the end of the state of emergency, giving lawyers and the public adequate notice to plan and prepare. The legislation, including a schedule of all the ministerial orders that are to be extended, is available here.

Remote witnessing of wills to become permanent

The provincial government has introduced amendments to the Wills, Estates and Succession Act that make permanent the COVID-19 response measures that were implemented to enable courts to accept electronic wills and to permit the remote witnessing of wills. Full details regarding the amendments may be found here.

Cyber-attacks on the rise during COVID-19

According to recent reports, phishing attempts have increased by over 600 per cent since the beginning of March. As stated in previous notices, cyber-criminals often strike during periods of disruption, distraction and confusion, all of which have been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawyers and law firms have had to focus attention on addressing COVID-related impacts. Remote work environments may have less data security. These and other factors leave lawyers more vulnerable to data breaches. To protect your firm, be on alert and remind all lawyers and staff to take the following precautions before opening emails:

  • Always think before you click.
  • Never open a link or attachment in an email or text from anyone you do not know.
  • If you receive a link or attachment that you were not expecting – even if it is from someone you know – call the sender using the telephone number you have on file (not the number listed in the message) to confirm the message is legitimate.
  • If you open a link or attachment that you should have avoided, and a box opens that asks for your password or other information, stop. Close out. Immediately call your IT department to run a scan on your device(s).
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi, and do not use unsecured Wi-Fi to connect to your work server, to do any banking, or to send any confidential or personal information.
  • Avoid working in public spaces where third parties may view screens or printed documents.

In addition, talk to your IT professional about our ten simple steps and other preventive measures you can take to protect your systems and your data. Also, talk to your insurance broker about buying comprehensive cyber insurance for this risk (your Lawyers Indemnity Fund policy provides limited social engineering coverage but does not respond to ransomware attacks or data breaches). Further information on cyber insurance and other commercial products is available here.