E-Brief: December 2023

News you need

Complete the Indigenous Intercultural Course by January 1, 2024

The Law Society’s Indigenous Intercultural Course (IIC) helps BC lawyers increase their Indigenous cultural awareness and understanding. The online course must be completed by 11:59 pm on January 1, 2024 for most practising lawyers. If you were called since January 1, 2022 or have taken time away from practice since January 1, 2022, you can find the date by which you must complete the course in the Member Portal by clicking on the link to certify completion of the mandatory course. Lawyers who do not complete and certify completion of the course by the deadline will be subject to late fees and potentially a suspension.

To access the course, sign in through the Member Portal and navigate to the “Education” heading on the main page. Click on a link called “Law Society’s Brightspace” and navigate to the Law Society’s Brightspace tab. Click on the red “Go to Brightspace” button and you will be automatically logged in to access the course. Your Brightspace username and contact email are also available on this page. If you have already started the course, you can pick up where you left off by following the instructions above or logging into Brightspace directly. Learn more about the IIC.

Update to Annual Practice Declaration

Beginning in 2024, lawyers will be able to indicate they practice Aboriginal/Indigenous law in the Law Society’s Annual Practice Declaration (APD). For the purposes of completing the APD, Aboriginal/Indigenous law will mean providing legal services to Aboriginal Peoples, as that phrase is defined in s. 35(2) of Constitution Act, 1982.

Lawyers can now claim CPD credit for pro bono work

Lawyers who provide pro bono service to clients with limited means or to non-profit organizations can now claim CPD credit for their work. This change stems from the approval in principle granted by the Benchers from their meeting in April 2022. For more information, visit the Member Portal.

Mental Health Task Force final report approved

The Benchers unanimously approved the Mental Health Task Force’s final report and recommendations. The report outlines the task force’s comprehensive review of the National Study on the Health and Wellness Determinants of Legal Professionals in Canada and includes six recommendations. The recommendations offer multifaceted proposals for improving mental health in the profession, including outreach and reporting activities, anti-stigma initiatives, tailored health measures and alternative discipline approaches. Read the full report and its recommendations.

Managing your mental health during the holidays

The holiday season is a busy time of year that revolves around joy and gathering with loved ones. However, the season can also add unwanted stress and financial pressure to our lives, which can lead to feelings of burnout and depression. In addition, lack of sunlight and shorter days can contribute to feeling low.

The Law Society has expanded resources through the Lawyer Well-Being Hub to provide legal professionals with more mental health supports, including anonymous 24/7 access to resources and content that includes short videos, live Q&A web chats with mental health experts and blog posts via LifeSpeak. Learn more about managing your mental health during the holidays.

Injunction granted to Federation of Canadian Law Societies

The Supreme Court of BC has granted an injunction suspending the application of recently expanded mandatory reporting obligations in the Income Tax Act to members of the legal profession, pending the outcome of litigation challenging the constitutionality of the provisions. Read more on the Federation’s website.

Introducing LawCast BC, a new Law Society podcast

The Law Society is excited to announce the launch of LawCast BC, a new podcast that examines emerging priorities impacting the legal profession, as well as regulation and the work we do to protect the public. In the first episode, we share information about one of the most pressing issues facing the legal profession: mental health. Learn about our new mental health and wellness resources in this discussion with Claire Marchant, Director of Policy & Practice Support, and Rose Morgan, UX & Content Strategist. Listen here, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Latest discipline news

Looking for news on discipline outcomes, conduct review summaries and admitted discipline violations? Head to our Discipline Outcomes section to stay updated on the latest information. Tribunal information, including hearing dates and outcomes, can be found on the LSBC Tribunal website.

Have your say on the future of lawyer development in BC

We are seeking your feedback to help identify the knowledge, skills and other attributes necessary to become a competent lawyer in BC. Your views will help inform a new licensing system for entry-level candidates. The deadline to complete the survey has been extended until December 18, 2023. This initiative, a collaboration between the law societies of BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, will result in the publication of a Western Canada Competency Profile that will help inform lawyer training and education, including bar admission program development and experiential learning opportunities. Complete the survey.

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 what they consider to be the greatest threat to the rule of law. The deadline for submissions is Friday, April 19, 2024. For further details on the essay topic and submission guidelines, see the Law Society’s website.

Bencher news

Benchers approve return to practice rule amendments

In addition to passing the amendment in principle at the November 3 Bencher meeting, the Benchers have now approved amendments to the Law Society return to practice rules. The intended aim of the amendments is to address the impact of the rules on individuals who take time away from practice. The rules will take effect on January 1, 2024 and more information will be available on the Law Society website shortly.

Benchers receive King’s counsel appointments

Congratulations to the 26 lawyers who were recently appointed to King’s counsel, including Law Society Benchers Cheryl D'Sa, KC, Lindsay LeBlanc, KC, and Gurminder Sandhu, KC. The King’s counsel designation recognizes outstanding contributions to the legal profession. In announcing this year’s honourees, Niki Sharma, KC, Attorney General said “I’m honoured to recognize this esteemed group for their invaluable impact on our community, and on the BC justice system.” Read the official announcement.

New and returning faces at the Bencher table

Following the November election, nine new Benchers were elected and 13 benchers were re-elected, two by acclamation. Congratulations to the newly elected and re-elected Benchers. The Law Society also wants to thank those who stood for election as well as the non-returning Benchers for their years of service. Read the election results.

Practice support and resources

New practice resource on artificial intelligence tools

The Law Society has released a new practice resource — Guidance on Professional Responsibility and Generative AI — to help lawyers consider the use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools in their legal practice. The guide is focused on the use of AI tools powered by large language models that can create new content or data based off the data it was trained on, such as Open AI’s ChatGPT-4 or Google’s Bard. By understanding and addressing these challenges, lawyers can approach the use of AI in a responsible and ethical manner while upholding the integrity of the legal profession. Lawyers who would like to discuss a specific issue regarding generative AI tools can contact a practice advisor.

Practice direction: Designated paralegals, non-lawyers may appear for clients in court

Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie has issued a new practice direction to allow designated paralegals, non-lawyer agents and proponents of the Law Society’s Innovation Sandbox to appear and represent clients in court in certain capacities. The presiding judicial officer can still prohibit any non-lawyer from representing clients in court if the non-lawyer’s appearance would be inconsistent with the proper administration of justice.

Updates from the Land Title and Survey Authority of BC

The Land Title and Survey Authority of BC (LTSA) has released several updates that may be relevant to your practice:

  • E-filing directions have been updated with revised links, added requirements and an added Land Tax Deferment Act Agreement.
  • The new version of the Property Transfer Tax web-based return was released on December 11, 2023.
  • Amendments to the new Land Owner Transparency Act (LOTA) provisions are now in effect and can be reviewed here.


Board vacancies: Seeking applicants

The Law Society is currently seeking expressions of interest from individuals who would like to be considered as a Law Society of BC appointee to the Vancouver Airport Authority Board of Directors and/or the Law Foundation of BC Board of Governors. The deadlines for applications are 5 pm, December 31, 2023 and 5 pm, January 9, 2024, respectively. To apply, submit an application form and supporting resume specifying why you would be a good candidate for the position to which you are applying. Use this link for the Vancouver Airport Authority Board of Directors appointment, and this link for the Law Foundation of BC Board of Governors appointment.

News from Laywers Indemnity Fund

Stay alert: Holiday season is prime time for fraud

Holiday season is an appealing time for fraudsters to try their scams on law firms because of reduced staff and added distractions. Stay safe this holiday season and avoid becoming the next victim of a ransomware attack by watching the three-minute video below by Director of Underwriting and Claims, Michael Mulhern.

Lawyers are also continuing to be hit hard with funds transfer frauds. You are at risk of being targeted in a funds transfer fraud any time you are transferring trust funds, so you must verify emailed instructions through phone or in-person contact. Using a checklist for every payment can help mitigate your risk.

If you plan to be away from the office, arrange for a competent lawyer to supervise your practice and ensure the lawyer and your staff will be compliant 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. Ensure you and your staff are aware of different scams, including the bad cheque scam (which has recently targeted a number of lawyers). Review the names and ruses fraudsters have attempted to use against BC lawyers.
Always think before you click. If you unexpectedly receive a link or attachment, 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, immediately call your IT professional, inform staff, and report the incident to the cyber insurer for law firms, Coalition, Inc. If you have questions about current scams targeting lawyers, you can contact Barbara Buchanan KC at bbuchanan@lsbc.org or 604.697.5816.

BCCA confirms strict two-year limitation period for third-party notices

BCCA has just confirmed there is a strict two-year limitation period for third party claims. To understand when time starts running, see Neale Engineering Ltd. v. Ross Land Mushroom Farm Ltd., 2023 BCC 429.

Don’t wait to add third parties! Determine early in the litigation what third parties should be added and include them then to avoid a limitation issue. In the re-released three-minute video below, Director of Claims, Leanne Wood, summarizes the rules and law with respect to third party claims.

Reminder: New conditions for disbursement recovery for expert evidence and reports

Read Order in Council No. 628 to find out how the disbursement limit applies to expert evidence or reports for existing vehicle injury proceedings with a trial date after February 27, 2024. Also review the conditions in s. 5(8) for applications for excluded disbursements.

Generative AI: What lawyers need to know

Recent generative AI breakthroughs have brought tremendous opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness in all professions, including the practice of law. However, all lawyers must be aware of and consider the risks before adopting AI into their practice. Read our recent Notice to Lawyers to find out what those risks are and what you can do. Review the Law Society’s Guidance on Generative AI: Key Points for additional guidance.