E-Brief: December 2022

Law Society response to the Ministry’s Intentions Paper

On November 16, the Law Society issued its response to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s intentions paper outlining its proposal to modernize the legal profession through the creation of a single legal regulator. The Law Society’s response can be read here. You can also watch a video of President Lisa Hamilton, KC speaking about the single legal regulator proposal, the Law Society’s response and what it may mean for you here.

Analysis underway regarding trust accounting and related requirements

As reported earlier this year, the Trust Review Task Force was created to assess the current trust accounting rules and related requirements, such as client identification and verification, against the objectives of those rules and any concerns expressed about the rules and their enforcement. The task force is currently gathering information to assist in its analysis of these issues. It expects to undertake a more formal consultation early in 2023. If lawyers wish to raise any particular issues or concerns with the trust accounting rules and related requirements, they are invited to do so by sending comments to consultation@lsbc.org. Lawyers are encouraged to forward this invitation to other members of staff at their firm as well.

Meeting underserved legal needs, a priority for the Benchers

To help address unmet and underserved legal needs in BC, the Benchers have endorsed a proposal that the Law Society, through consultation with other justice-system stakeholders and the government, explore how to establish “triage hubs” through which people facing a problem that may include a legal element can obtain information, guidance and preliminary advice. The proposed “hubs” would seek to leverage existing advice centres or clinics in order to create a unified architecture to expand services that are offered, to make them available to all people regardless of income in all areas of the Province, and to ensure the collection of data relating to areas of need and outcomes of the services provided, which is currently scarce. Next steps include creating a staff work plan on how to engage with other justice system stakeholders to establish these hubs, followed by consultations with stakeholders and the public to explore how to meet these underserved legal needs.

Benchers take steps to approve clerking as an alternative path to licensing

The Benchers have approved amendments to the Law Society rules to recognize a judicial clerkship as an alternate pathway to licensing. Law clerks will now have the option of applying for call and admission after completing PLTC and a clerkship term of at least nine months without being required to complete a minimum period of articles. Law clerks may still choose to complete a period of articles prior to their call and admission, in consultation with their principal lawyer and firm, government body or other organization.

Celebration of Life for Thomas R. Braidwood, QC

For those who were impacted by the life of Tom, please join the Braidwood family on December 29, 2022 at 2pm at the Terminal City Club for his celebration of life. Please note, the building capacity is 200 people.

The Law Society Award – Reminder that nominations are now open

The Law Society intends to honour an exceptional individual in the legal profession with the Law Society Award. Nominations are now open and will close on January 10, 2023. Lawyers are encouraged to nominate a candidate for their exceptional contributions to the legal profession. For more information, including how to submit a nomination, click here.

Reminder: Indigenous Intercultural Course Requirement

The Law Society launched the Indigenous intercultural course earlier this year, which all practising lawyers in British Columbia are required to complete over a two year period. The course was designed to help lawyers increase their awareness and deepen their understanding of the impacts of the colonization of British Columbia on Indigenous communities and individuals. Lawyers can access the course easily through the Member Portal on the Law Society website with a one-touch log in by clicking the “Go to Brightspace” button on the “Law Society’s Brightspace” page.

Lawyers may also claim continuing professional development (CPD) credit for each hour spent working on the course, up to a maximum of six hours. The course is accredited for two hours of "professional responsibility, practice management and ethics" credit so can be taken to fulfill that requirement.  To learn more about the course or how to certify completion, review the FAQS.

Rule of law essay contest for secondary school students

BC secondary school students in grade 12, or who have taken or are currently enrolled in Law 12, Political Studies 12, Social Justice 12 or Social Studies 11, are invited to submit an essay on the following topic: How has the rule of law affected — positively, adversely or otherwise — the advancement of minority rights in Canada? The deadline for submissions is April 21, 2023. Please inform any eligible high school students you know about the contest and encourage them to participate. For further details on the topic and submission guidelines, visit the website.

Relaunch of the 2022 National Family Survey

The Department of Justice Canada has issued an invitation to participate in the anonymous 2022 National Family Law Survey (NFL Survey), which will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes. This year, the focus is on child support. The NFL Survey collects information on the characteristics of practitioners’ family law cases, and their experience in family law issues. This information assists in the development of policy and programs related to family law in Canada. The survey will close on December 23, 2022.

From Lawyers Indemnity Fund

Was your action suspended? Don’t wait until March 26 to file your Notice of Civil Claim

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many limitation periods for starting a civil or family action in the BC Supreme Court were suspended on March 26, 2020 and lifted on March 25, 2021. For causes of action that arose after the suspension of limitation periods (March 26, 2020) but before March 25, 2021, the limitation period expires on March 26, 2023. Find more information here.

Attention real estate lawyers: Value and identity frauds continue

LIF has been contacted recently with respect to a variation of identity fraud. In this case, it appears that the fraudster may have presented to a lawyer a false agreement of purchase and sale to obtain title to a property for the purpose of later mortgaging, refinancing or selling the property. The true owner of the property was a non-resident. The Law Society has also been made aware of attempted identity and value frauds.

There are many variations of value and identity fraud and real estate lawyers are at risk. What can you do? Carefully verify your client’s identity for real estate transactions and loan transactions. Be on the look-out for anything suspicious and trust your gut instincts.

For more resources, including tips to help keep you safe, see Real estate: Value, identity and other frauds, Private Lending (April 2019 Discipline Advisory), Real estate transactions – know your client primer (Summer 2021 Benchers’ Bulletin) and the Client ID & Verification web page. If a mortgage broker is involved, consider checking the BC Financial Services Authority’s records to see if they are currently registered under the Mortgage Brokers Act.  If you have questions about these types of scams or verifying your client’s identity, contact Practice Advisor Barbara Buchanan, KC (bbuchanan@lsbc.org or 604.697.5816).

Be alert! Holiday coverage and fraudsters

Holiday season is an appealing time for fraudsters to try their scams by taking advantage of when law offices have fewer staff working and there are added distractions. If you plan to be away from the office, arrange for a competent lawyer to supervise your practice and provide the lawyer and your staff with your contact information. Make sure that the lawyer and staff will ensure compliance with the anti-money laundering obligations in the Law Society Rules Part 3, Division 11 – Client Identification and Verification and BC Code rule 3.2-7. Further, 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. We also strongly recommend that you review the social engineering tips found here with all staff.

Ensure you and your staff maintain an awareness of the different cyber risks including social engineering fraud, ransomware and data breach, and especially heed the following:

  1. Think before you click! If you unexpectedly receive a link or attachment – even if it is from someone you know – or sense anything unusual, call the sender using the telephone number you have on file (not the number listed in the message) to confirm the message is legitimate – do not verify an email with an email. If you open a link or attachment that you should have avoided, or a box opens that asks for your information, stop. Close out. Immediately call your IT professional, inform your law firm staff, and report the incident to the cyber insurer for law firms, Coalition, Inc.
  2. Before paying out any funds to your client, verify the email instructions are legitimate through direct phone (using the number on your client file) or in-person contact with your client.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of a cybercrime, report the incident immediately. Report, even if you have escaped a loss, as the fraudster is often still lurking in your system waiting for the next opportunity to defraud you.

In case you missed it: Find out what goes wrong with pension divisions

Family law consistently generates a significant number of reports to LIF, ranking in the top three or four highest practice areas generating claims. This is not surprising given the emotionally charged environment of family matters. Engagement management issues are at the root cause of many of these claims. They include failures to manage a client’s expectations of the legal process, who is doing what (for example with a pension), and how much it’s going to cost.

In this two-minute video, Director of Risk Management Maryanne Prohl will share with you a common mistake we see and the easy steps you can take to avoid it.

Reminder: Foreign buyers are banned from purchasing Canadian property as of January 1

The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act (the "Act"), in force January 1, 2023, prohibits the purchase of residential property by non-Canadians. Every non-Canadian who contravenes this prohibition and every person or entity that counsels, aids or attempts to counsel or aid a non-Canadian to purchase, directly or indirectly, any residential property is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $10,000 (see section 6). Note that a charge or fine is not covered under your LIF policy. In addition to the penalties, the Minister may apply to court for an order to sell a property that has been purchased in contravention of the Act. It appears that this prohibition will be in effect for two years, subject to any amendments. Learn more here.

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