BarTalk column mistaken on Law Society's position on paralegals

In the course of describing various developments in the practice of law, CBA President Margaret Ostrowski, Q.C. notes in her March BarTalk column that "Our Law Society is contemplating opening up the practice of law and letting the marketplace govern."

In the interests of clarification and reassurance to Ms. Ostrowski and other lawyers, the Law Society is not contemplating the de-regulation of legal services, as would seem to be suggested in BarTalk. The delivery of legal services could never be thrown open to the market - that would be a gross abdication of responsibility and a danger to the public. That's important to note as the Law Society continues its dialogue with the profession on the future of paralegals, multidisciplinary practice and the impact of technology on our profession.

The responsibility of governance requires the Benchers to consider changes occurring about us so that we can best work to protect the interests of the public and our profession's core values, and ensure that lawyers are well positioned to take advantage of these changes. If we do not, our profession risks becoming marginalized.

The Law Society has worked to identify the economic forces that impact on B.C. lawyers, plan for coming changes and ensure that our regulatory framework does not impede lawyers from meeting market demands. That is why, for example, the Benchers have passed rules to facilitate cross-border practice by lawyers in Canada and why we are looking at such innovations as allowing lawyers to practise with other professionals in a multidisciplinary setting, provided the core values of the legal profession can be safeguarded.

Only by tackling some of these hard issues can we be satisfied that our regulation remains modern and relevant, and that events do not pass us by.

The Benchers have recently decided to look into several options on the future of paralegals - as set out in this President's View column - but giving non-lawyers free rein in the market is not one of those options.