The Law Society is considering regulating law firms for more efficient and effective regulation.

Law firm regulation is a proactive approach toward regulation. 

By regulating law firms as well as individual lawyers, law firms will be responsible for having policies and procedures in place to help reduce issues and better serve the public.

At their meeting on December 8, 2017, the Benchers approved the recommendations of the second interim report of the Law Firm Regulation Task Force as amended at the meeting and resolved to initiate them through a pilot project that will be rolled out in 2018.

The objective of the pilot project is to evaluate the functionality and accessibility of a self-assessment form that will ask participating law firms to assess themselves on several key aspects of law firm management and process. Further details about firm registration and the pilot project are available in the Spring 2018 Benchers' Bulletin.

On April 6, 2018, the Benchers adopted new rules and substantive rule amendments to implement the regulation of law firms. See the April 2018 highlights of amendments.

Background

Regulating law firms as well as individual lawyers aims to provide more efficient and effective regulation – both from the public's and the lawyer's perspective. It is meant to simplify and improve the regulatory process from the perspective of the individual lawyer, not to create additional regulatory burden.

Making law firm regulation a reality is part of the Law Society’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2017. In the fall of 2014, Benchers created the Law Firm Regulation Task Force and gave it the mandate of recommending a framework for regulating law firms.

If firms were regulated, they would bear responsibility for activities that transcend the work of any individual lawyer, including, for example, advertising, accounting or file management.

A hypothetical situation may be that a firm’s advertising practices could raise ethical concerns. Under the current system, the regulator has to investigate the matter through an individual lawyer within that firm rather than investigate the firm’s practices. If law firms themselves are regulated, the Law Society could directly investigate the firm’s practices and the firm would bear responsibility for its collective conduct.

Law firm regulation would ensure that firms have systems and protocols to flag problems before they affect clients or lead to complaints. The Law Society would not prescribe what those systems or protocols would look like, but would leave it to each firm to devise a system that suits its unique circumstances.

Regulating both law firms and lawyers can improve regulation in two ways. First, it is a proactive approach that aims to address problems or concerns before they become issues for clients. The current approach is primarily reactive, responding to conduct that has already occurred. Second, law firm regulation regulates areas that firms are responsible for, taking that burden off individual lawyers and making it the collective responsibility of the firm.

Entity regulation is not unique to BC, or Canada. Regulators of the legal profession in England, Europe and Australia have adopted various forms of law firm regulation. In Canada, other law societies are studying how best to apply law firm regulation to the legal profession in their province.

Timeline

May 2018

Law firm registration commences. Firms are required to confirm contact information and identify a designated representative for the firm for the purpose of receiving and responding to communications from the Law Society.


December 2017

At their meeting on December 8, 2017, the Benchers approved the recommendations of the second interim report of the Law Firm Regulation Task Force as amended at the meeting and resolved to initiate them through a pilot project that will be rolled out in 2018.


July 2017

The Law Firm Regulation Task Force has completed its second interim report with recommendations. The report was discussed by the Benchers at their July meeting and will come back to the Benchers for further discussion and decision.


November 2016

The Law Firm Regulation Task Force presented its interim report to the Benchers at their meeting on November 4, 2016. The report includes 10 recommendations on the regulatory design and proposed next steps. Read the full report.


February 2016

Herman Van Ommen, QC, travelled across the province to conduct consultation sessions in 11 cities. See the law firm regulation consultation presentation


November 2015

Members were invited to review a summary of the task force’s work to date and take part in an online survey on law firm regulation. Read the law firm regulation survey report


October 2015

The Law Firm Regulation Task Force completed a consultation paper for a survey with lawyers across the province. Read the consultation brief


July 2014

The Law Firm Regulation Task Force was created and given a mandate to recommend a framework for the regulation of law firms.


May 2012

The legislature passed amendments to the Legal Profession Act to give the Law Society the authority to regulate law firms in addition to individual lawyers.