Law Society Rule changes

Disclosure and privacy in complaints

The Benchers have passed new rules to address privacy and disclosure issues in the Law Society complaints and discipline process, as flagged by the ongoing work of the Privacy and Disclosure Task Force.

Rules 2-15(1)-(2) and 4-36.1(4) and (6) now provide that, when another law society is investigating the conduct of a BC lawyer or is initiating discipline proceedings, the Law Society may inform clients if relevant information concerning them is sent to that other law society.

Rule 3-3 has been amended for clarification. Under 3-3(2), when a complaint is known to the public, the existence, subject matter and status of the complaint may be disclosed. A recent amendment to 3-3(2) also now allows disclosure of additional information that is necessary to correct inaccurate information.

Finally, Rule 3-3(2) and (3), as amended, clarify that the "status" of a complaint means its stage of progress through the complaint handling process, including but not limited to the fact that a complaint file has been opened, is under investigation, has been referred to a committee or has been closed (including the reason it has been closed). A new subsection (4) provides that these disclosure provisions are subject to solicitor-client privilege and confidentiality.

When a complaint giving rise to a conduct review is known to the public, the fact of the conduct review and its disposition by the Discipline Committee may be disclosed, subject to solicitor-client privilege (Rule 4-11(3)-(5)).

All or part of minutes of meetings of the Complainants' Review Committee respecting a complaint may be released to the complainant or lawyer concerned (Rule 3-9(7)).

Annual practice declaration

An annual practice declaration must be completed, signed and delivered by a practising lawyer by the date set by the Executive Director (Rule 2-6(2)-(3)). Note: The due date for insured practising lawyers to file the declaration has changed from September 30 to the date on which firms become required to file a new form of accountant's report. That new form of accountant's report is expected to be introduced late in 2003. For insurance- exempt practising lawyers, the due date for filing the practice declaration remained September 30 this year.

Business address

Rule 2-8(1) provides that a lawyer must inform the Executive Director of his or her place of business. A new subsection now stipulates that a lawyer's place of business includes the place of business and registered and records office of a law corporation of which the lawyer is a voting shareholder (Rule 2-8(2)).