Introduction to the BC Code

(1) One of the hallmarks of civilized society is the rule of law. Its importance is reflected in every legal activity in which citizens engage. As participants in a justice system that advances the rule of law, lawyers hold a unique and important role in society. Self-regulatory powers have been granted to the legal profession in Canada on the understanding that the profession will exercise those powers in the public interest. Part of that responsibility is ensuring the appropriate regulation of the professional conduct of lawyers. Members of the legal profession who draft, argue, interpret and challenge the law of the land can attest to Canada's robust legal system. They also acknowledge the public’s reliance on the integrity of the people who work within the legal system and the authority exercised by the governing bodies of the profession. While lawyers are consulted for their knowledge and abilities, more than mere technical proficiency is expected of them. A special ethical responsibility comes with membership in the legal profession. This Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia attempts to define and illustrate that responsibility in terms of a lawyer’s professional relationships with clients, the justice system and other members of the profession.

(2) The Legal Profession Act provides that it is the object and duty of the Law Society of British Columbia to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice. A central feature of that duty is to ensure that lawyers can identify and maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct. This Code attempts to assist lawyers to achieve that goal. While the Code should be considered a reliable and instructive guide for lawyers, the obligations it identifies are only the minimum standards of professional conduct expected of members of the profession. Lawyers are encouraged to aspire to the highest standards of competence, integrity and honour in the practice of their profession, whether or not such standards are formally addressed in the Code.

(3) The Code is published under the authority of the Benchers of the Law Society of British Columbia for the guidance of BC lawyers. It is significantly related to the Federation of Law Societies’ Model Code of Professional Conduct, though there are points of variance from the Model Code that the Benchers have considered to be appropriate for guiding practice in British Columbia. Where there is a corresponding provision in the Model Code, the numbering of the BC Code is similar to that of the Model Code. The BC Code is not a formal part of the Law Society Rules but, rather, an expression of the views of the Benchers about standards that British Columbia lawyers must meet in fulfilling their professional obligations. 

(4) The Code is divided into three components: rules, commentary and appendices. Each of these components contain some statements that are mandatory, some that are advisory and others with both mandatory and advisory elements. Some issues are dealt with in more than one place in the Code, and the Code itself is not exhaustive of lawyers’ professional conduct obligations. In determining lawyers’ professional obligations, the Code must be consulted in its entirety and lawyers should be guided in their conduct equally by the language in the rules, commentary and appendices. Mandatory statements have equal force wherever they appear in the Code. 

(5) A breach of a provision of the Code by a lawyer may or may not be the basis of disciplinary action against that lawyer. A decision by the Law Society to take such action will include a consideration of the language of the provision itself and the nature and seriousness of the conduct in question. 

(6) The correct or best answer to ethical questions that arise in the practice or lives of lawyers may often be difficult to discern, whether or not the Code addresses the question directly. Lawyers should always be aware that discussion of such questions with Benchers, Law Society practice advisors, the Law Society’s Ethics Committee or other experienced and trusted colleagues is the approach most likely to identify a reasonable course of action consistent with lawyers’ ethical obligations. This Code is intended to be a valuable asset for lawyers in the analysis, discussion and resolution of such issues.

[Introduction added 12/2016]