E-Brief: December 2019

Indigenous intercultural competency requirement for BC lawyers

The Benchers have determined that Indigenous intercultural competency is necessary as part of lawyer competence, and have approved the creation of a free six-hour online course to meet this need. The course content will be finalized in 2020 and will cover topics and themes referred to in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report and calls to action. The course will also include information and knowledge that prepares lawyers to participate in, and respond to, changes to provincial laws as contemplated by the recently enacted Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Once finalized, lawyers will have up to two years to complete the required course. For more information, visit our website.

Client verification and source of money rules take effect January 1, 2020

Continuing our efforts to ensure that lawyers do not enable money laundering, the Benchers have amended the rules to introduce more stringent requirements for verifying a client’s identity and to require lawyers acting in financial transactions to obtain additional information about a client’s source of funds. To assist lawyers with implementing the rule changes into their own practice, the Federation of Law Societies has developed Guidance for the Legal Profession. For information and answers to frequently asked questions, refer to Client ID and Verification FAQs on the Law Society’s website or contact a practice advisor (practiceadvice@lsbc.org or 604.443.5797). Further guidance is also available in the Practice Advice column “Rule amendments enhance Law Society’s anti-money laundering measures” and in the upcoming column in the Winter 2019 Benchers’ Bulletin.

Removal of potentially stigmatizing language from BC Code rule 7.1-3 and commentary

The Benchers have approved changes to remove potentially stigmatizing language from the duty to report rule, and the related commentary for the rule has been amended to remove barriers for lawyers who may seek help for mental health issues (rule 7.1-3). The changes to the Code may be seen here.

Consultation on the future of legal services, legal practice and the legal profession

The Law Society’s Futures Task Force is seeking input to assist in its consideration of the future of the practice of law and regulation of the profession in British Columbia. Specifically, the task force is seeking comment on the factors and forces that are likely to influence the delivery of legal services and the regulation of the legal profession and legal practice over the next decade. Comment can be provided online here. For more information on the consultation, visit our website.

Award recipients honoured at Law Society recognition dinner

Members of British Columbia’s legal profession were recognized for their exceptional contributions to the public interest at a ceremony held on December 6, 2019. Claire E. Hunter, QC received the Pro Bono Award; Nancy Cameron, QC received the Excellence in Family Law Award; Raji Mangat received the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award; and the Leadership in Legal Aid Award was received by Marilyn Sandford, QC, Christopher Johnson, QC, Peter Leask, QC, H. William Veenstra, QC and Richard Fowler, QC, on behalf of the Association of Legal Aid Lawyers. This year marks the introduction of awards designed by Rod Smith, a Kwakwaka’wakw sculptor based in Qualicum Beach. For more information on each award and photos of the award winners, visit our website.

Insurance to Indemnity – coming soon

Recent amendments to the Legal Profession Act will change the current “insurance program” into an “indemnification program,” effective January 1, 2020. As a result, Lawyers Insurance Fund will become Lawyers Indemnity Fund and lawyers will see changes to nomenclature in the policy, documents and forms, on the website, in the Rules and BC Code. However, while names and wordings will change, LIF will continue to handle claims, take calls, deal with firms and covered lawyers, and reply to advance rulings and email inquiries, just as it always has.

Reform of the Builders Lien Act

BC Law Institute has issued a Consultation Paper on the Builders Lien Act and a condensed Summary Overview. If you have any comments, please provide them to BCLI by January 15 2020. The responses will be used in finalizing recommendations to appear in a later report.

Reminder for real estate lawyers – additional property transfer tax for foreign nationals, foreign entities and taxable trustees

Lawyers Insurance Fund has recently received a number of claims where lawyers have forgotten that a foreign national, foreign corporation or taxable trustee will be required to pay additional property transfer tax on certain real estate transactions. This additional tax applies to the residential portion of a property that BC Assessment has classified as residential (class 1), farm land (that includes a residential improvement) or commercial (that includes a residential improvement). Familiarize yourself with the features of the tax by reading the Ministry of Finance’s web page.

Holiday coverage and scammers

Be on alert for scams during the upcoming holidays. Scammers often try to take advantage of this season, when law offices have fewer staff working and there are added distractions. If you will be away, arrange for a competent lawyer to supervise your practice and provide the lawyer and your staff with your contact information. Staff may not deal with trust funds, except in accordance with the Law Society Rules  Part 3, Division 7 Trust Accounts and Other Client Property. Ensure you and your staff maintain an awareness of the different scams, including the bad cheque scam (which has recently targeted lawyers in wrongful dismissal and dog bite claims) and fraudulent changes in payment instructions. Always treat a change in payment instructions as suspicious, especially if it involves wiring funds (see CBC News article Bank wires fraudsters over $800K of retiree’s savings, despite red flags). Review the names and ruses fraudsters have attempted to use against BC lawyers. As always, be vigilant about the Law Society's client identification and verification rules. If you suspect that you have encountered a fraud in BC, contact Barbara Buchanan, QC, Practice Advisor, at 604.697.5816 or bbuchanan@lsbc.org.

From the courts

The Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal have issued a Notice to the Parties and the Profession on formal implementation of the pilot project on procedural bijuralism. Visit the court’s website for more information.

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Send your comments or questions to communications@lsbc.org.