E-Brief: March 2022

Developing a framework for a unified legal services regulator

The Attorney General has asked the Law Society, Society of Notaries Public of BC and representatives of the paralegal association to renew efforts to consolidate regulation of all legal professionals with a single legal regulator that protects the public, improves access to legal services and continues to recognize the fundamental importance of independent legal professions. A unified regulator has been considered before, and the Benchers recognized that a single regulator can ensure that professionals providing the same legal services are regulated according to the same standards by the same regulatory body. The recent announcement will create the opportunity to engage constructively on the creation of a unified regulatory regime that protects public consumers of legal services, improves access to legal services and supports independent legal professionals. Read the announcement here.

Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) changes regarding lawyers’ trust accounts

As of April 30, 2022, changes to rules governing insurance protection for deposits held “in trust” at CDIC member institutions come into effect. Under the new rules, before April 30, 2022, lawyers, law partnerships and law corporations must designate their trust accounts as Professional Trustee Accounts, which have less onerous disclosure requirements than for the general trust account category or their trusts account will remain general trust accounts with more onerous disclosure requirements (each beneficiary’s  full name and address and the amount, or percentage of each beneficiary’s interest) and possible lost or reduced insurance coverage for failure to provide required beneficiary information. Lawyers should advise their clients of these new requirements and obtain their consent to disclose their name and address to CDIC if a member institution fails and CDIC needs the information to make payments to depositors (see CDIC Professional Trustee Data Requirements). For more information about the changes and the process, please see the CDIC’s website and contact your member institution.

Practice advice online tool to launch in April 2022

The Law Society has developed a new online tool to assist lawyers in getting timely answers to their ethics and practice management questions, as well as to schedule calls with a practice advisor. The “Advice Decision-Making Assistant” (ADMA) will connect you to resources in a user-friendly, intuitive manner, and it will be available 24/7 through the Law Society website. We are working on the final stages of ADMA’s development before its planned launch in April 2022.

Supreme and Provincial courtroom audio and videoconference links soon to be available in Member Portal

For ease of reference, the Law Society will soon be posting audio and videoconference links and dial-in details for the Supreme and Provincial courtrooms in the Member Portal. Once posted, if you have any questions about the links or dial-in details, please contact the court directly.

New proactive practice assessment pilot to launch on March 22

The Law Society’s new, voluntary proactive practice assessment program will begin to be piloted on March 22. During the initial phase of the pilot, selected applicants who are lawyers called for between 2 and 4 years will be provided with access to an experienced legal practitioner who meets for a free one-on-one consultation to review existing practice management systems and make recommendations for possible improvements. Openings are limited, and preference will be given to those who are practising in a solo or a small firm environment. For further information or to request an application please email srap@lsbc.org by March 29, 2022. We anticipate expanding eligibility in future phases of the pilot.

Seeking experienced Indigenous lawyers to assist with practice reviews

Practice reviews are an important resource to assist lawyers who may be struggling to manage practice issues or who find themselves working on files that are beyond their level of competence. In certain cases, a lawyer will be required to meet one-on-one with an experienced lawyer to discuss issues or for a full practice review. As part of the Law Society’s Truth and Reconciliation Action Plan commitments, we are seeking experienced Indigenous lawyers to join our roster of reviewers. An honorarium is paid to reviewers for their time dedicated to a practice review. Those wishing to be considered, or for further information, please contact Carolyn Anderson at canderson@lsbc.org.

Register now: “On the Path to Equity for Women in Law” virtual event on Friday, April 29

The International Association of Women Judges, CBABC and the Law Society of BC invite you to attend a virtual event on Friday April 29, 2022 from 12:30 to 2 pm to celebrate the progress  women lawyers in British Columbia have made toward equity so far, as well as to engage in dialogue about continuing barriers to further progress. Those in attendance will be treated to the perspectives of a panel of diverse women lawyers regarding challenges and triumphs they have experienced, and their tips for success. The event will also include breakout rooms to discuss retention and representation in the profession, pay equity and career progression, childcare, maternity and eldercare, sexual harassment and discrimination, or flexible and remote work. Registration is available here.

Help toolkit on family violence is now available

The government of Canada has launched the Help Toolkit: Identifying and Responding to Family Violence for Family Law Legal Advisors. The toolkit is intended to provide practical guidance to assist in identifying and responding to family violence.

Rule of Law Lecture and Rule of Law Matters podcast episode featuring Marie Henein

Join us for a conversation with renowned criminal defence lawyer Marie Henein that will cover the role lawyers play in defending their clients against the state, how an independent bar protects the public and the rule of law, and why these should matter to everyone. The event will be held on Monday, April 4, 2022 from 6 to 7:30 pm at the UBC Robson Square theatre, with light refreshments served. Seating is limited. To RSVP, email policy@lsbc.org. For more information, see our website or download the flyer here.

For a preview of the topics Henein will speak to, listen to the latest episode of our Rule of Law Matters podcast for her insights on the role of lawyers in our society, what influenced her to become a lawyer and current threats to democracy and the rule of law. 

Alert: bait and switch scam involving certified cheques

In a bait and switch scam, the scammer will show the lawyer a certified cheque, made out in trust to the law firm during a video conference and promise to deposit it directly into the trust account. The lawyer then gives the scammer the firm’s trust account deposit details, but instead of depositing the certified cheque the scammer deposits an ordinary cheque for the same amount. When the lawyer checks the firm’s trust account and sees the deposit for the same amount, the lawyer believes the certified cheque was deposited. The scam is only discovered when the lawyer issues a trust cheque or wires funds – to pay out a private lender to discharge a mortgage, for example – but the ordinary cheque has bounced and there is a trust shortage. Take appropriate steps to protect yourself and you law firm trust account. If you intend to pay money out of your trust account relying on the certified cheque, deposit the cheque yourself. And if you have questions about this scam and other bad cheque scams, contact bbuchanan@lsbc.org or 604.697.5816 and contact trustaccounting@lsbc.org or 604.697.5810 for trust accounting questions.

Additional sanctions in response to the attack on Ukraine

Canada has imposed additional sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act (Russia) Regulations and the Special Economic Measures Act (Ukraine) Regulations. These measures include restrictions on individuals and entities (collectively, designated “persons”) and prohibitions related to transactions with them. Further sanctions may be imposed. Lawyers are encouraged to check the sanctions lists before being retained or continuing to offer services to listed persons to determine the services they are permitted to provide.

Proposed amendments to improve financial stability for access to justice programs funded by the Law Foundation of BC 

The provincial government has introduced legislation to provide the Law Foundation of BC the authority to approve the interest rates and service charges on lawyers’ pooled trust accounts, establishing similar requirements to those currently in place in Ontario. The changes will help promote certainty and reliability for funding that supports access to justice programs and initiatives in communities throughout the province, and the board of the Law Foundation has adopted measures to ensure that existing arrangements between financial institutions continue once the legislation comes into force. Further information about the change is available here.

Land Title and Survey Authority services fee increase

The Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA) has announced that most services fees will increase by a small amount as of April 1, 2022. Details regarding current LTSA fees and projected fees after April 1, 2022 is available here. To learn more about the fee increases, read the LTSA announcement here.

From Lawyers Indemnity Fund

Junior Lawyers Virtual Risk Management Conference on April 27, 2022

Earn five CPD credits and complete all of your 2022 practice management and professional responsibility hours in one go at this full-day free virtual conference developed by LIF, with the assistance of CLEBC! The conference agenda covers what every senior lawyer wishes they knew when they started. While the conference will be of particular interest to newer lawyers, any lawyer interested in refreshing an understanding of these practice concerns is more than welcome. Register now. Watch this one minute video for details.

Real estate lawyers – mortgage fraud update

The Toronto Police Service recently published an update regarding an individual allegedly posing as a private mortgage broker who placed fraudulent mortgages on homes without the owners’ knowledge. We understand this fraudster may now be in British Columbia and poised to perpetrate similar frauds here. Take appropriate steps to protect yourself and your clients. Remember to carefully verify your client’s identity for loan transactions and be on the look-out for anything suspicious. 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. For more resources, including tips to help keep you safe, see Real estate: Value, identity and other frauds, the Discipline Advisory – Private LendingReal estate transactions – know your client primer and the Client ID & Verification web page. If you have questions about these types of scams or verifying your client’s identity, contact Barbara Buchanan, QC (bbuchanan@lsbc.org or 604.697.5816).

Don’t wait until November to file land owner transparency reports

Although the deadline for pre-existing “reporting bodies” (a relevant corporation, a trustee of a relevant trust, or a relevant partnership, who acquired an "interest in land" prior to November 30, 2020 and continue to own an interest) to file a transparency report with the Land Owner Transparency Registry (LOTR) has been extended to November 30, 2022 – don’t  delay and act now. Lawyers who are contacted and retained by pre-existing “reporting bodies” should keep in mind that a transparency report can take some time to complete. Wherever possible, have your client execute the report rather than you. This extension does not change the current obligation to file a transparency declaration by a transferee applying to register an interest in land and, if a transferee is a “reporting body,” to also file a transparency report. For information about the offences and fines for a reporting body’s failure to file a transparency report see Disclosure by existing landowners. Visit the LOTR’s web page on policy help, the government’s web page for enforcement information and resources regarding interpretation, and subscribe here to receive emails with the most recent updates.

In case you missed it: The home stretch – how to avoid common civil settlement mistakes

The relief of concluding a settlement when the end of a civil claim is in sight is almost palpable but you don’t want it to be the beginning of problems, arguments, and ultimately a claim against you. Take a three-minute pause to watch LIF Claims Counsel Greg Sexton as he reveals common mistakes lawyers make during settlement and how you can avoid them.

For the latest updates from LIF, follow us on Twitter @Lifbc.