E-Brief: May 2009

Marketing legal services: Benchers have voted to update the rules governing advertising by lawyers and law firms. Some of Chapter 14 of the Professional Conduct Handbook was found to be outdated and not well suited to informing the public about legal services. While the rules are now shorter and more focused, they still state clearly that advertising must be true, not misleading, verifiable and consistent with the public interest. The amended rules are published in the Publications & Forms section of the Law Society website.

“Specialist” term remains prohibited: Another hot topic during the discussion about advertising was the use of the word “specialist.” Lawyers can continue to state a practice preference (i.e. tax lawyer) but cannot hold themselves out as specialists. The Benchers concluded that the word implies lawyers have undergone specialized training and testing, which is not necessarily the case. The Ethics Committee said this is an evolving debate, and it will revisit the issue in the future.

Criteria broadened for what qualifies as Continuing Professional Development (CPD): Good news for lawyers looking for ways to fulfill mandatory CPD requirements. Next January 1, the Law Society will launch a CPD-accredited mentoring program. To qualify, members can submit online a brief mentoring plan outlining how the mentor and mentee will meet in person, online or by phone, for at least six hours during a one-year period. Benchers also approved expanding the writing, teaching and education options that qualify for CPD credits.

Law societies working to standardize admission to the bar: CEO Tim McGee told Benchers that a working group of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada is preparing a roadmap for developing national standards for admission to the legal profession. The group will work to make uniform the various provincial standards related to competency, character and fitness, as well as processes for testing and assessment. Goals include greater national mobility for lawyers and gaining efficiencies in teaching, administration and reporting.

United Nations Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor to speak in Vancouver: The South Asian Bar Association of BC and the North American South Asian Bar Association invite members to join some 350 lawyers and judges from across North America and India at the association’s annual conference, being held here June 25-28. For details visit www.nasabaconvention.org.

A celebration of Chief Judge Hugh Stansfield’s life set for June 4 at the Great Hall at Vancouver’s Robson Square: President Gordon Turriff, QC opened this month’s Benchers meeting expressing the legal profession’s sense of loss with Stansfield’s death April 30 after a lengthy illness. Turriff said Stansfield, who was a pioneer in establishing community courts in BC, was passionate about access to justice.

Editor’s note: Thanks to all who sent encouraging comments in response to our first edition of E-Brief last month. We appreciate your feedback. Lesley Pritchard.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information in E-Brief is accurate. However, the information presented is necessarily a summary. When considering how any amendments or additions to the Legal Profession Act, Law Society Rules and Professional Conduct Handbook might affect their obligations and requirements, readers should refer to the complete text.