E-Brief: January 2010

Law Society's 2009 - 2011 Strategic Plan updated

Benchers started off the New Year by making modifications to the current Strategic Plan, including a new focus on the retention of Aboriginal lawyers in the legal profession. A business case for enhancing diversity in firms, with a particular focus on Aboriginal lawyers, will be developed during the coming year. The chair of the Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee, Robert Brun, QC, said his committee is looking forward to the work. "There is a definite air of excitement around these initiatives involving Aboriginal students and lawyers." Among other changes to the Plan, Benchers will consider the separation of their investigative and adjudicative powers, and will re-examine the Society’s guidelines for the handling of discipline matters.

Operating hours during Olympics

The Law Society will be open for business during the Olympic period, with modified public hours beginning February 5, when road closures begin, and ending February 26, when road closures are lifted. The office is in the “red zone,” meaning it is in the middle of 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic sporting and cultural venues. Because of the expected congestion, public hours will be 9 am to 3 pm. Staff will continue to work their regular number of hours, but some schedules may be modified.

Maternity leave benefit loan program

The Law Society has implemented the maternity leave benefit loan program that is designed to assist self-employed women lawyers to remain in practice. The program aims to help women address some of the overhead costs associated with maintaining a sole practice during a maternity leave. The loan program is available to practising self-employed women lawyers who do not have access to other maternity and parental financial benefits beyond government programs. The program provides a fixed sum of $2,000 per month for four months. Guidelines and forms are available in the Publications & Forms section of the Society’s website.

Continuing professional development

The Law Society has now posted a Frequently Asked Questions page about the new CPD-accredited mentorship program, which came into effect January 1. Members may also be interested to know the University of Victoria’s law school offers CPD-accredited programs free of charge to BC lawyers. For more information, visit UVIC’s website at www.law.uvic.ca/news/news_story.php?id=170.

One step closer to a Canadian common law degree

The Benchers have approved the adoption of national academic requirements that law students would be expected to possess, when entering bar admission programs anywhere in Canada (outside Quebec). The requirements include competencies in basic skills, awareness of ethical values and core legal knowledge. The approval is contingent on the Federation of Law Societies of Canada establishing a committee with representation from BC law schools to consider any implementation issues that may arise. The complete report from the Federation task force dealing with the Common Law Degree is available on the FLSC website at www.www.flsc.ca.

Model Code of Conduct considered

The Ethics Committee provided the Benchers with its provisional views on some of the issues raised by the “Model Code,” a professional code approved by the Council of the Federation of Law Societies that sets out expected standards of ethical conduct. The chair of the Ethics Committee, Gavin Hume, QC, noted that the committee was inclined to recommend adoption of the Code, with necessary changes that may be required because of BC-specific issues. He indicated that it is important to consult with the profession generally before a new Code is actually adopted, and the nature and timing of such consultation will be considered at a future meeting.

Quebec Mobility Agreement authorized

The Benchers approved a Federation of Law Societies proposed agreement that would facilitate the establishment of reciprocal mobility between Canadian common law jurisdictions and the Barreau du Quebec. The Quebec Mobility Agreement recognizes that the Barreau has created a new class of membership known as Canadian Legal Advisor, which permits members from Canadian common law jurisdictions to practise federal law, the law of their home jurisdiction, and public international law in Quebec. As a signatory to the agreement, BC will establish a Canadian Legal Advisor category of membership that will permit members of the Barreau to practise law in BC on the same basis, once the necessary rules are in place.

New practice directions

The Provincial Court has recently issued new directions for Kamloops – Kamloops District, and Dawson Creek, Cariboo Northwest Districts. Details are available on the Court website at www.provincialcourt.bc.ca.

Job posting

The Professional Conduct department is looking for a new staff lawyer. The position requires frequent contact with the public and lawyers, and the ability to efficiently and effectively evaluate information and evidence to assess whether conduct requires further investigation or action by the Law Society: see About the Law Society/Careers.

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.