Consultation by the Ethics Committee
Lawyers acting in real property transactions
The Ethics Committee is concerned about reports it has received within the profession that some lawyers are failing to comply with the provisions of the Professional Conduct Handbook, including Appendix 3. According to those reports, there are specific concerns that:
- some lawyers are routinely acting for more than one party in real estate matters in circumstances that are contrary to the rules in Appendix 3,
- some financial institutions are pressuring lawyers to breach the rules by advising them that other lawyers are prepared to do so in order to act for the institutions, and
- it is not always clear whether a transaction contains a commercial element which, under paragraph 5 of the Appendix, would prevent a lawyer from acting for more than one party.
The Benchers last amended the real estate rules generally in 1999, following consultations by the Ethics Committee with the profession. In making those amendments, the Benchers sought to balance the desirability of independent representation for clients with the flexibility for lawyers to act for more than one client in circumstances in which it is economic and safe to do so.
Lawyers who become aware that other lawyers are acting contrary to the Handbook may wish to consider drawing the attention of those lawyers to the relevant rules. For its part, the Law Society will look at whether further amendments would clarify any ambiguity in the rules and will also consider how to educate financial institutions on lawyers' obligations under the Handbook.
If there continues to be non-compliance with the Handbook, lawyers who are aware of non-compliance may wish to consider reporting those lawyers to the Law Society so that the Society can consider whether disciplinary action is warranted.
The Ethics Committee invites lawyers to provide the Committee with any information they can about current practices that contravene the Handbook, as well as any suggestions they may have for improvements to the Handbook.
Please send comments to the attention of Jack Olsen, Staff Lawyer - Ethics, at:
Law Society of British Columbia
845 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 4Z9
Telephone: 604 443-5711
Fax: 604 646-5902