New court protocol helps counter unauthorized practice

The Law Society and the Provincial Court have agreed on a protocol whereby judges can confirm that a person appearing as counsel is a practising member of the Law Society of BC or a member of another law society who is permitted to practise in BC. The protocol places the Provincial Court in a better position to verify the identity of those appearing as counsel, when that appears necessary, and to bring unauthorized practice to the attention of the Law Society.

The protocol, as adopted by the Benchers and the Court in October, reads:

Unauthorized Practice

When a Judge or JJP becomes aware of a person who is not a lawyer holding him or herself out to be a member of the Law Society of British Columbia or engaging in the unauthorized practice of law contrary to the Legal Profession Act, this may be the subject of an immediate complaint, either directly to the Law Society Unauthorized Practice Committee, or through the Administrative or Chief Judge if preferred. These complaints allow the Law Society to take action to protect the public from untrained, unregulated, and uninsured legal service providers.

Under s. 15(1)(e) of the Legal Profession Act and Rules 2-10.1 to 2-17.1 of the Law Society Rules and the National Mobility Protocol, members of the law society of another Canadian jurisdiction may be entitled to provide legal services in British Columbia on a limited basis if they are practising members in good standing of that other law society. There is no requirement for such lawyers to confirm their attendance in British Columbia with the Law Society of British Columbia. However, the Law Society of British Columbia can confirm whether the lawyer is entitled to practise law as a visiting lawyer in British Columbia pursuant to the Rules.

Confirmation of whether a person is a practising member of the Law Society of British Columbia may be obtained by checking the Lawyer Look-up on the Law Society’s website at www.lawsociety.bc.ca or by telephone at 604 669-2533. Confirmation of whether a person is a lawyer in another jurisdiction in Canada and entitled to practise law in British Columbia on a limited basis may be obtained by contacting the Unauthorized Practice Department of the Law Society of British Columbia by telephone at 604 669-2533 or by sending an email to: uap@lsbc.org.

[The protocol sets out the section 1 definition of “practice of law” of the Legal Profession Act as well as sections 15 and 85 of the Act.]

In referring a matter of unauthorized practice or falsely holding out as a lawyer to the Law Society, the Judge or JJP may include with the complaint information regarding, or a copy of the transcript of, evidence given by the party, or the representative, as to the nature of their relationship and the amount of fees charged or paid, if any. They may also include copies of court documents prepared by the representative, together with any documents relevant to the representative holding out as a lawyer or engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. If there is a tape of any of the representations made, or of the evidence given, a copy may be provided to the Law Society with the complaint. This evidence is important for the Law Society to establish the breach of the Legal Profession Act.

This text is an addendum to a 2004 protocol respecting complaints by lawyers against judges or by judges against lawyers. The protocol is not intended to discourage complaints or to replace existing complaints processes — rather it recognizes that a judge, a JJP or a lawyer may benefit from advice or assistance in making a complaint, or in deciding whether it is appropriate to make a complaint.

The updated Provincial Court protocol is available in the Practice Support section of the Law Society website at www.lawsociety.bc.ca.