E-Brief: July 2023

Benchers approve recommendations to improve Indigenous cultural safety in legal regulation

At the July 14, 2023 meeting, the Benchers unanimously approved the Indigenous Engagement in Regulatory Matters report and recommendations. The objective of the report, created by the Indigenous Engagement in Regulatory Matters Task Force, is to identify systemic barriers experienced by Indigenous complainants and witnesses, and propose solutions to establish and maintain culturally safe and trauma-informed regulatory processes. Recommendations from the report include taking steps to build relationships, gain trust and become more proactive in preventing harm to Indigenous persons and communities and, more generally, the public. For more information, visit our website.

Reminder: Indigenous Intercultural Course

The Law Society’s Indigenous Intercultural Course helps BC lawyers increase their Indigenous cultural awareness and understanding. The online course must be completed by January 1, 2024 by all lawyers who were practising as of January 1, 2022. Lawyers who began or returned to practice after January 1, 2022 have two years to complete the course from the date they commenced or returned to practice. For more information, read the FAQs.

BC Code amendments expand guidance on discrimination and harassment

Amendments to the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia’s provisions on discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment were approved and adopted by the Benchers at the July 14, 2023 meeting. The changes bring the BC Code more closely in line with the Federation of Law Societies’ Model Code of Professional Conduct. The recent amendments consist of expanded definitions and specific examples in section 6.3 of the BC Code, as well as a new rule on reprisals. To learn more, visit our website.

Concerned about discrimination or harassment? Reach out to our Equity Advisor

Sarah Sharp (she/they) has assumed the role of Practice and Equity Advisor at the Law Society, a role that was previously called the Equity Ombudsperson. Sarah can assist all legal professionals with resolving concerns about discrimination and discriminatory harassment. Calls to her will remain strictly confidential, protected by the same measures that safeguard the confidentiality of all calls to Practice Advisors. Learn more on the Equity Advisor webpage and watch this video to find out how she can help.

Law Society Tribunal seeks hearing panel and review board applicants

The Law Society Tribunal is seeking lawyers and members of the public to serve on hearing panels and review boards. Hearing panel members preside over cases involving allegations of discipline violations and incompetence by lawyers. They also contribute to the assessment of character and fitness for aspiring lawyers. Tribunal review boards play a crucial role by hearing appeals from hearing panel decisions, ensuring fairness and justice. For detailed appointment criteria, visit the Tribunal’s website. To apply, contact Tribunalchair@lsbc.org.

Bencher by-election results: Christina J. Cook elected in Vancouver County

Christina J. Cook has been elected as Bencher in the July 12, 2023 by-election for the County of Vancouver. Christina is a litigator and a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation. She is the founder of the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch’s Aboriginal Lawyers Forum (ALF), the first forum of its kind in Canada. The ALF works to support and improve the retention of Indigenous legal professionals through networking, mentorship, professional development and opportunities to celebrate Indigenous culture. Read more about Christina here.

Annual General Meeting results

The Law Society held its annual general meeting virtually on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. The agenda included the consideration of seven resolutions. The Benchers’ resolution regarding the appointment of Law Society auditors for 2023 was passed, along with the following four member resolutions: a resolution to improve the Law Society’s inclusion of persons with physical disabilities, a resolution to allow the enrolment of articled students with a principal who is subject to a complaint that has yet to be investigated, a resolution to recognize the legal work experience of tribunal members in qualifying as a family law arbitrator or parenting coordinator, and a resolution to create an exemption to the requalification rules for lawyers who take two extended parental leaves within a five-year period. Full details of the AGM results are available here.

Guidance on the use of AI technologies in court

With the rapid deployment and use of technologies like ChatGPT, there has been a growing level of AI-generated materials being used in court proceedings. Counsel are reminded that the ethical obligation to ensure the accuracy of materials submitted to court remains with you. Where materials are generated using technologies such as ChatGPT, it would be prudent to advise the court accordingly. The Law Society is currently examining this issue in more detail and we expect that further guidance to the profession will be offered in the coming weeks.

Banks, credit unions sign agreements to abide by BC’s mortgage discharge rules

Following concerns raised by the Law Society, Notaries Public of BC and the Land Title and Survey Authority of BC, Consumer Protection BC completed an assessment that revealed broad non-compliance from banks and credit unions regarding mortgage discharge rules. As a result, Consumer Protection BC has signed a series of undertakings with various banks and credit unions to ensure mortgage discharge documents are issued within 30 days of a mortgage being fully paid. Visit Consumer Protection BC’s website for more details.

LTSA to retire COVID remote witnessing measures

Effective September 30, 2023, the Land and Title Survey Authority of BC’s COVID-related remote witnessing measures will be retired. Remote witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney was made permanent by s.17.1 of the Power of Attorney Act and remains in effect. Read more here.

Honouring Law Society Award recipient Eloise Spitzer

The Law Society was pleased to honour the lifetime contribution of Eloise Spitzer, recipient of the 2023 Law Society Award, at the Bench and Bar dinner hosted by the CBABC on June 15. Eloise Spitzer has made extraordinary contributions to advancing equality, education, environmental protection, human rights, and Indigenous rights and governance for over 40 years. A fearless advocate, a kind and generous mentor to young lawyers, and a founder and leading member of the nationwide Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (also known as LEAF), she embodies the best of the profession with her everlasting impact on the public and our society. Hear from her colleagues in this video

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 Thompson Rivers University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. Congratulations to this year’s recipients: Pardeep Birak (TRU), Maddison Mayah Zapach (UBC) and Emmaline English (UVic). Further information is available on the website.

News from Lawyers Indemnity Fund

Vacation alerts and precautions

Cybercriminals target law firms during vacation periods by taking advantage of changes in the usual procedures due to a reduced workforce. When 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. We also strongly recommend that you and your staff review the social engineering tips found here.

Don’t let your guard down! Funds transfer frauds continue

Any time you are transferring trust funds, by any means, in any kind of legal matter, you are at risk of funds transfer frauds and must verify emailed instructions through direct phone or in-person contact. Review our recent Notice to Lawyers to learn about the details of funds transfer frauds and access additional resources. If you think you have been a victim of a funds transfer fraud, immediately notify your bank and request a clawback of the funds. Next, contact your IT department and cyber insurer to ensure the fraudster is not lurking in your system, and then report to us.

Supreme Court of Canada 2023 appointment process underway

The process to select the next judge of the Supreme Court of Canada is currently underway. An independent, non-partisan advisory board will work to identify suitable candidates who practise law to the highest standards, can work in both official languages and are representative of Canada’s diversity. Interested candidates are also welcome to apply. For more information, visit the Supreme Court of Canada’s website.

LTSA to retire COVID remote witnessing measures

Effective September 30, 2023, the Land and Title Survey Authority of BC’s COVID-related remote witnessing measures will be retired. Remote witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney was made permanent by s.17.1 of the Power of Attorney Act and remains in effect. Read more here.