E-Brief: December 2010
President reflects on a year focused on access
Glen Ridgway, QC chaired his final Benchers meeting on December 10, highlighting the need to help more British Columbians gain access to legal services. He said progress has been made on a number of fronts, including the measures taken by the Law Society to broaden the services offered by paralegals and articled students, and participation in the Public Commission on Legal Aid. The outgoing President expressed his hope that much more will be done in 2011.
Nancy G. Merrill, a family lawyer, has been elected as Bencher for Nanaimo County in a November by-election. She replaces President Ridgway, who becomes a Life Bencher on January 1, 2011. Also, lawyers have voted in favour of a referendum to distribute Law Society financial statements electronically.
Criteria set for broader participation in hearing panels
Benchers have taken another step toward a new model for hearing panel selection by setting the criteria for inclusion of non-Bencher lawyers and non-lawyers for its "hearing pools." This follows an approval in principle to change how the Law Society selects its hearing panel members to create greater public confidence in the discipline process. The criteria will be published as an appendix to the Benchers Governance Policies early in the New Year.
Rule 4-43 has been amended to specifically refer to the electronic records of a lawyer who is the subject of a Law Society investigation. The updated rule also provides for the protection of the privacy interests of anyone in the records unrelated to the investigation. Rule 5-13 has been updated to make the procedure for initiating a Bencher review of a hearing panel decision consistent with that for prehearing questions in the discipline rules.
Improving courtroom skills
Benchers have adopted a set of recommendations to develop and implement initiatives aimed at improving the oral advocacy skills of lawyers. The Law Society will work collaboratively with other organizations to enhance junior lawyers' courtroom experience and skills. Read the report (PDF).
An important deadline for law firms is fast approaching, related to a supplemental provincial sales tax filing requirement. Final returns are due to the BC Ministry of Finance by January 23, 2011. Read more.
Uploading bills to websites okay
The Benchers considered the electronic billing model established by ICBC in which lawyers can submit bills to websites. The Benchers decided that a lawyer who provides a bill in accordance with this practice will not be off-side the Law Society Rules regarding delivering a bill to a client because submitting a bill to a website is a suitable equivalent to communicating the bill by electronic mail. The Benchers also directed the Act and Rules Subcommittee to review the language of Rule 3-57 and section 69 of the Legal Profession Act to ensure it provides greater flexibility for the electronic delivery of a lawyer's bill.
The Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA) is seeking input from lawyers who submit applications to the Land Title Office. At the LTSA's request, the Law Society emailed a notice to lawyers who were identified as practising in the areas of real estate, family law and wills and estates, asking them to participate in a voluntary LTSA survey. If you would like to complete the survey, click here. The deadline is December 24, 2010.
BC Online down for system upgrade in early January
The BC Government is making changes to its data centre that will necessitate the temporary suspension of access to the province's mainframe computer. As a result, BC OnLine will close at noon on Friday, January 7, 2011 and is expected to reopen at 6 am on Monday, January 10. Read more about the BC Online outage. For lawyers using the LTSA online services, visit the LTSA website.
New practice advisor
Warren Wilson, QC, a highly respected Vancouver lawyer, is joining the Law Society's practice advice team in January.
The Lawyers Insurance Fund has an opening for a Claims Counsel position. Information on this and other career opportunities.
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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.