E-Brief: October 2020

Fee freeze for 2021 annual practice and indemnity fees

Recognizing the ongoing challenges the legal profession faces as a result of the pandemic, the Benchers adopted a budget for 2021 that maintains annual practice and indemnity fees at the same levels as 2020. Total fees for a full-time lawyer will continue to be $4,089.12, based on a practice fee of $2,289.12 and full-time indemnity fee of $1,800. While fees remain the same, a change that is being introduced is that the 2021 annual practice fee will be paid in two instalments, the same as the indemnity fee. More information about the 2021 fees is available here.

Targeted fee relief for lawyers in need of financial assistance

Based on data and feedback about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on law firm incomes, the Benchers approved a targeted fee relief plan to assist those firms facing the most financial need. Eligible law firms will have experienced at least a 30 per cent decline in per-lawyer fees between 2019 and 2020, and pre-COVID income for full-time lawyers must have been $75,000 or less and $37,500 or less for part-time lawyers. Fee reductions will be made on a sliding scale ranging from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of the practice fee, based on the amount of reported year-over-year professional fees.

The Benchers acknowledge the uncertainty COVID-19 is continuing to have for businesses and have given the Executive Director some discretion to consider the eligibility of fee relief to a sole practitioner or small firm who did not complete the form sent to designated representatives this summer, but has since found it needs financial assistance.

Futures Task Force final report and recommendations on the future of legal practice

The final report of the Futures Task Force was adopted by the Benchers at their September meeting. The task force report identifies areas where anticipated changes in the marketplace for legal services will likely require changes in regulation and modernization in relation to the practice of law, business structures, legal education, accreditation, lawyer development, and more. The report and its 23 recommendations is available here.

Benchers endorse proposal to create regulatory innovation sandbox

According to 2020 Ipsos-Reid survey data, 85 per cent of British Columbians who experience a serious, difficult legal problem either get no legal help or get legal assistance from someone other than a lawyer. In an effort to advance the public interest and improve the ability of these individuals to access justice, the Benchers adopted the Licensed Paralegals Task Force’s recommendation to develop a regulatory innovation sandbox in which non-traditional service providers may apply to provide a defined scope of legal services to individuals whose needs are currently unmet or underserved. Successful applicants will be required to obtain a no action letter from the Law Society. The task force envisions the innovation sandbox will enable piloting a licensed paralegal regime. Read the full report here.

To support the development of this initiative, the Benchers also approved a public policy statement regarding unauthorized practice which clarifies that “the Law Society will not take action against persons who are apparently acting contrary to section 15 of the Legal Profession Act unless, in the discretion of the Executive Director, there is a significant risk of harm to a person or the public.

Law Society to explore alternative pathways to licensing new lawyers

Since the beginning of the year, the Lawyer Development Task Force has been considering the question of whether the current method of training lawyers, in existence for 70 years now, is appropriate for 2020 and beyond. At the September Bencher meeting, the task force recommended a further review of the current licensing program and exploration of new pathways for licensing lawyers – including ways to enhance the role of technology, remote learning and mentorship. Read the report and the recommendations adopted by the Benchers here.

Diversity Action Plan

The Benchers have adopted the Diversity Action Plan, which includes 30 action items to foster diversity within the Law Society, support diversity in the legal profession, identify and remove discriminatory barriers, enhance intercultural competence education, improve outreach and collaboration, and track and report progress. Read the full action plan here.

2020 Law Society Award recipient

The Benchers have selected Leonard Doust, QC as the recipient of the 2020 Law Society Award. Doust has made extraordinary contributions to the legal profession and the administration of justice for more than 50 years. A fearless advocate, kind and generous mentor to young lawyers, many of whom have become prominent lawyers, judges and justices, and renowned for his pivotal Public Commission on Legal Aid, he embodies the best of the profession and service to the public interest. With the Bench & Bar Dinner postponed this year due to the pandemic, a special presentation is being planned and will be shared at a later date.

Benchers approve the use of consent agreements to resolve complaints

In an effort to facilitate more timely and cost-effective resolution of certain complaints, the Benchers have given approval in principle for pre-citation consent agreements to be used in circumstances where a citation hearing may not be necessary to protect the public interest. Pre-citation agreements will be considered where the parties can reach an agreement about an outcome that is within the range of outcomes expected at the end of a hearing. The result of the consent agreement will be published online and form part of the lawyer’s professional conduct record. The matter has been referred to the Act and Rules Committee to prepare the necessary rule amendments to be returned to the Benchers for approval.

Amendments to the Law Society Rules

The Benchers approved amendments to allow documents to be served through the Member Portal and the recipient will be notified of the posting by mail or email. See the highlights of amendments here.

Reminder: Private BC companies must create and maintain a Transparency Register as of October 1, 2020

BCBCA private companies will be required to prepare and regularly update a Transparency Register that includes a list of individuals who directly or indirectly control 25 per cent or more of the shares or votes of the company and certain personal information about them. There are significant penalties for non-compliance. The Transparency Register is similar in principle to the Canada Business Corporations Act’s register of individuals that has been in effect since mid-2019, however, there are some notable differences. More information can be found here.

Advanced voting open for Annual General Meeting

Advance online voting is currently open for the October 6, 2020 Annual General Meeting. Voter credentials and instructions on how to access the voting site are available in the Member Portal. Advanced online voting will close at 5 pm on October 5, 2020. Live online voting will be available during the meeting. If you are planning to attend the virtual meeting, you will need to register prior to the meeting. Please register by using the RSVP function available in the Member Portal by 5 pm on Monday, October 5, 2020. Instructions on how to join the meeting will be sent to registered members in advance of the AGM.

Bencher by-election in Vancouver County: reminder about call for nominations and electoral district

Nominations of candidates for election in the upcoming Bencher by-election in Vancouver County close at 5 pm on Thursday, October 15, 2020. In light of the current health directives, nominations can only be accepted by email to BencherRelations@lsbc.org. Nomination forms may be downloaded from the Bencher election page on the Law Society’s website. For more information, see the Notice to the Profession.

ICYMI: Rule of Law Matters podcast

On September 16, the Law Society launched Rule of Law Matters, a podcast series that draws from real-life, current events that explain the concept of the rule of law, how the rule of law is threatened or undermined, and what it all means to the public. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes featuring Dr. Catherine Dauvergne on the rule of law versus rule by law, Prof. Irwin Cotler on the resurgence of global authoritarianism, and discussions on the pandemic and the rule of law. To listen to the Rule of Law Matters podcast, visit the Law Society’s website, or subscribe on Spotify or on Apple Podcasts.

Law Foundation’s annual report

The Law Foundation’s annual report is now available here. The challenges of recent months have delayed its arrival, but the foundation is pleased to present information about the work of its grantees in a new format. The report includes profiles of grantees and information about the work done during the Law Foundation's 50th year of operations. The foundation looks forward to your comments and feedback at info@lawfoundationbc.org.


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