E-Brief: December 2009

Attorney General commends 2009 Law Society President

Attorney General and Bencher Michael de Jong, QC made a special appearance at the last Benchers meeting of the year, on December 11. He thanked Law Society President Gordon Turriff, QC for touring communities throughout BC with an important message — that it is critical that we in the justice system ensure that the legal institutions that underpin society remain strong and supported by the public. The Attorney General presented Mr. Turriff with a framed certificate, to recognize his contribution over the past year.

One Bencher named Master, two others receive QCs

Attorney General de Jong, QC took the opportunity to announce the appointment of Meg Shaw, QC, the Bencher for Okanagan District, as a Master in the Supreme Court of BC. The development will trigger a by-election in the district in the New Year. The Attorney General also announced two Benchers, Jan Lindsay, QC and Bill Jackson, QC, are among the 24 lawyers honoured with Queen's Counsel designations. For the full list, see the Ministry of Attorney General's website.

Aboriginal lawyers update

In his report to the Benchers, the Chair of the Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee, Patrick Kelly, said that recruiting and retaining Aboriginal lawyers has been identified as a priority for the committee, and he recommended that the Benchers also make it a priority in 2010. In the New Year, the Benchers will consider options for revising the Law Society's Strategic Plan, including addressing Aboriginal participation in the profession.

Public opinion survey on legal services

In April, E-Brief reported that the Benchers gave approval to conduct a public opinion survey to gain an understanding of British Columbians' use of legal services and identify barriers to accessing justice. The Ipsos Reid survey is now complete, and among the results: nearly 80 percent of British Columbians who retained a lawyer were satisfied with the quality and the costs of the services they received. Another interesting result: close to 70 percent of British Columbians who faced serious legal problems in the past three years did not seek any assistance to try and resolve them. To read the survey results, download the survey report (PDF).

Delivery of Legal Services Task Force — next steps

With the legal services survey now complete, Chair Art Vertlieb, QC, presented the Delivery of Legal Services Task Force's report to the Benchers. They, in turn, directed the Task Force to consider what steps the Law Society might take to improve access to legal services for those in need. For more information, download the Task Force report (PDF).

Rules permitting multi-disciplinary partnerships

The Benchers passed amendments to the Law Society Rules and the Professional Conduct Handbook, similar to those in effect in Ontario, that will permit lawyers to form partnerships with non-lawyers in limited circumstances. Practising lawyers must have actual control over the delivery of legal services and the services provided by non-lawyers must support or supplement the delivery of legal services to clients of the law partnership. The Rules will become effective on July 1, 2010, following development by the Credentials Committee of the necessary forms and procedures. Additional information, including a Frequently Asked Questions section, will be available on the Law Society's website in the New Year.

Anonymous publication of discipline decisions

Benchers have amended the rules governing the publication of discipline decisions, in cases where the allegations in a citation are proved and a sanction other than a suspension or disbarment has been imposed. The updates reflect the Benchers decision in July 2009, that the Law Society should be transparent and publish all names of lawyers who have been disciplined. Anonymous publication of discipline decisions is permitted only when identification would cause harm to an individual other than the respondent: see Rules 4-38 and 4-38.1.

Catching up on CPD hours after return to practice

The Benchers have adopted a rule that requires lawyers returning to practice after having been non-practising, retired or ceased members to complete any CPD hours that were outstanding at the time they ceased practice. Lawyers should note that CPD requirements do not accumulate while not in practice: see Rule 3-18.3.

Send your comments or questions to communications@lsbc.org.

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.