The Law Society requires continual high standards in the practice of law so that clients and the public have full confidence in the professional competence of their lawyers.
Law is a demanding profession. There are rigorous academic and other requirements for becoming a lawyer in the province. Throughout their career, BC lawyers also work to maintain their legal knowledge and skills. They do so through formal professional development courses and workshops, training programs within law firms and research and study.
To help lawyers maintain professional competence, the Law Society provides practice and ethics advice services, as well as extensive resource materials. The Society also communicates regularly with lawyers through several publications and other tools.
A BC lawyer must acquire and maintain adequate:
- knowledge of the substantive law,
- knowledge of the practice and procedures by which that substantive law can be effectively applied, and
- skills to represent the client's interests effectively.
Addressing competency concerns
When competency concerns arise with respect to particular lawyers, these are often addressed by the Practice Standards Committee and staff.
In most cases, lawyers come to the attention of the Practice Standards Committee when they have been investigated for potential professional misconduct. They will be referred by Law Society staff, the Complainant’s Review Committee or the Discipline Committee.
In other instances, a lawyer may be referred by the Credentials Committee or may voluntarily self-refer for assistance.
Competency concerns are addressed in two ways:
- lawyers receive help improving their competency through learning and guidance
- lawyers are restricted from practice if they are incompetent and pose a danger to present or future clients
The Practice Standards Committee may:
- require the lawyer to meet one-on-one with a senior practitioner to review files
- review the lawyer's office systems
- order a full practice review, which is conducted by a volunteer lawyer and a Law Society staff lawyer.
After the review or visit, the lawyer is given advice and to implement any recommendations.
In some cases, lawyers who are struggling in practice may need more to overcome shortcomings in their work and to address any underlying problems - such as financial difficulties or medical or personal problems. It may be necessary to ask a lawyer to restrict practice to certain areas or to work only under the supervision of another lawyer. These remedial measures and restrictions may be temporary to help lawyers get their practices back on track while ensuring continued quality of service for their client.