How to check the status of counsel
Most lawyers are aware that, subject to certain exceptions, the Legal Profession Act prohibits non-lawyers from offering legal services to the public for a fee or representing themselves as lawyers: see section 15 of the Act.
Section 15 (3)(a) of the Act also prohibits the practice of law in BC by a lawyer who has been suspended or disbarred, or who resigns or otherwise ceases membership as a result of discipline proceedings. Section 15(3)(b) likewise prohibits from practising in BC a lawyer from another jurisdiction who is suspended or otherwise prohibited from practice in the other jurisdiction for disciplinary reasons. These prohibitions stand whether or not the lawyer intends to charge a fee to the client.
From time to time, lawyers may have reason to question the membership status of the person representing another party. Is the person a practising member of the Law Society of BC? Or is the person a lawyer from another province entitled to practise in BC under the interjurisdictional practice protocol? Or might the person be a non-lawyer?
It is useful to know how to check the status of a lawyer and how to raise concerns of possible unauthorized practice.
Check with the Law Society
Is the person a BC lawyer? - The Law Society can verify the membership and practising status of a BC lawyer. Call (604) 669-2533 (toll-free in BC 1-800-903-5300).
In the coming months, the Law Society website will also feature a look-up service to allow lawyers and members of the public to find this information online. Please watch for details.
Is the person a lawyer from another province? - To enquire about the status of a lawyer from elsewhere in Canada who may be practising in BC, you can take steps to check with other law societies. The Law Society of BC is currently testing a shared database of lawyers from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia and will soon be able to field telephone enquiries on the status of lawyers from those provinces.
Could this be unauthorized practice? - If you suspect unauthorized practice, please raise your concerns with Carmel Wiseman, Staff Lawyer, Unauthorized Practice at firstname.lastname@example.org or (604) 443- 5774 (toll-free in BC 1-800-903- 5300).