E-Brief: July 2022

Cullen Commission final report

The final report of the Cullen Commission was released publicly on June 15. Over a three-year period, the commission heard from almost 200 witnesses. In his 1,800 page report, Commissioner Cullen found that money laundering is a serious problem in British Columbia and requires attention from government, law enforcement and regulators. With regard to lawyers and the Law Society, he stated that Law Society rules limiting the acceptance of cash, client identification and verification, and trust account regulations go a long way to mitigating the risk of money laundering and lawyers, he recommended against a FINTRAC-style reporting regime for lawyers, and he made a number of key findings and 13 recommendations directly relevant to the legal profession and the Law Society. The full report, including Recommendations 53 through 65, is available here.

Trust Review Task Force

The governing board of the Law Society has established a Trust Review Task Force to consider recommendations of the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering regarding the handling of trust funds and management of trust accounts by lawyers. As part of its mandate, the task force will 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 terms of reference provide that the membership of the task force should include at least four lawyers who are not Benchers, at least two of whom should be lawyers from small firms. Lawyers interested in volunteering should review the terms of reference on the current openings web page, complete the appointments online form and specifically mention the task force.

“War crimes, the rule of law and the role of the International Criminal Court” lecture featuring ICC Judge Kimberly Prost

On the evening of Thursday, August 11, 2022, join us for a presentation by Judge Kimberly Prost of the International Criminal Court who will speak about her experience prosecuting genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the important of international law and justice institutions. Judge Prost has had an extraordinary criminal law career in Canada and globally, and in 2017 she was elected as a judge of the ICC where she serves on the trial division. Her presentation is part of the Rule of Law Lecture Series and will be held on Thursday, August 11 from 6 to 7:30 pm at the UBC Robson Square theatre, with light refreshments served. Seating is limited. To RSVP to attend in person, or to register to view the presentation online, email policy@lsbc.org.

Enhancing independence of the tribunal chair

As part of a continuing effort to enhance the independence of the LSBC Tribunal from the prosecutorial function of the Law Society, the governing board of Benchers has approved the establishment of a tribunal chair who is not a member of the board. For some time now, the majority of members of hearing panels and review boards have been lawyers and public adjudicators who are not members of the board. This latest decision provides the opportunity to seek expressions of interest in the position this fall, so that going into 2023 a non-Bencher will fill the role of Tribunal Chair.

LSBC Tribunal launches new website

The LSBC Tribunal has launched its own, independent website – https://LSBCTribunal.ca. The new website is where lawyers and the public will find information about the tribunal, its guiding principles, the hearing process and the cases it adjudicates. The LSBC Tribunal has also posted new Directions on Practice and Procedure before the LSBC Tribunal, together with the hearing forms to which they relate, that are effective as of July 11, 2022 and replace all previously issued practice directions and forms. The LSBC Tribunal will be creating a Chair’s Roundtable that meets at least twice a year where it will welcome feedback for improving its website and hearing processes.

Updated requirements for lawyers to comply with changes to the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act

Law Society Rule 3-77 has been amended to reflect new reporting requirements for professional trust accounts in the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act in which “professional trustees” must opt in or their trust accounts will be treated as general accounts. General accounts require disclosure of trust beneficiary information, which lawyers are not permitted to do absent instruction of each client. Under the amended Rule 3-77, lawyers are required to designate their trust accounts held in a designated savings institution insured by CDIC as professional trust accounts, in order to reduce the risk of making improper disclosures of confidential and potentially privileged information, and to ensure that there is no loss or reduction of insurance coverage. Further information about the CDIC changes has been published on the Law Society website here: Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation – FAQs.

Law Society gold medals

Each year the Law Society awards gold medals to the students who achieved the highest cumulative grade point average over their three-year law degree program at each of Thompson Rivers University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. Congratulations to the 2022 Law Society Gold Medal recipients: Janae Enns (TRU), Kelsey Jade Wong (UBC) and Kelty McKerracher (UVic). Further information about the Law Society Gold Medal and this year’s recipients is available on the website.

Law Society scholarship recipients

The Law Society congratulates Mercediese Dawson and Jaxxen Wylie, recipients of the 2022 Law Society Indigenous Scholarship, and Oludolapo Makinde, recipient of the 2022 Scholarship for Graduate Legal Studies.

Winners of the 2022 Rule of Law Secondary School Essay Contest

Congratulations to Christopher Zimmerman of Duchess Park Secondary School and Julien Yuen of Eric Hamber Secondary School for their exceptional essays on freedom of expression and the rule of law. Christopher was awarded first prize for his essay “An Analysis on the Rule of Law and Freedom of Expression”, while Julien was awarded second prize for “What the Rule of Law means to the Freedom of Expression”

From Lawyers Indemnity Fund

Vacation alert and precautions

Cybercriminals target law firms during vacation periods. They take advantage of changes in the usual procedures due to a reduced workforce to deceive lawyers, clients and staff. So be on high alert for scams during vacation and alert your staff. Be aware that law firms have recently been hit by the gift card scam. Arrange for a competent lawyer to supervise your practice, and provide your contact information to that lawyer and your staff. Your staff cannot handle trust funds, except as allowed in the BC Code and Law Society Rules, and should not be left without proper supervision (see BC Code, Chapter 6 and Law Society Rules 3-64 to 3-66).

In case you missed it: Don’t Bankrupt Your Firm, Part II – Your questions answered

Lawyers have been contacting LIF asking for more details about the recent frauds that hit two BC law firms. In our Notice to Lawyers, you will find answers to the most common questions we received. The crux of it is that any time you are transferring trust funds, by any means, you are at risk and must verify instructions. Consider downloading this checklist and using it for every file.

In case you missed it: BC Court of Appeal confirms CRT’s jurisdiction

Recently, the BC Court of Appeal in Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General) upheld the Civil Resolution Tribunal’s exclusive jurisdiction to resolve “minor injury claims” and specialized expertise to resolve damage claims at $50,000 or less for motor vehicle accident claims. When determining where to file an MVA claim, consider the factors set out here.

In case you missed it: Giving ILA? It’s risky business

We know that giving independent legal advice can be risky. In BC, the most frequent requests for ILA relate to marriage and separation agreements, and mortgages and guarantees. Your meeting with the client may be their only opportunity to carefully consider the nature of the transaction and understand their potential liability. Giving ILA is never routine – resist the temptation to take shortcuts and always document your advice.

In this three-minute video, Claims Counsel Jay Moon will tell you about the risks and how you can protect yourself.


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