A joint task force of the law societies in Western Canada proposes that a lawyer from one western province be allowed unlimited practice in another province for up to six months without the lawyer having to transfer. The Benchers will look at this proposal early this year.

The West sees opportunity for greater lawyer mobility

The Benchers will soon consider the proposal of a joint task force of the four law societies of Western Canada that would allow for greater interjurisdictional mobility of lawyers in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and any other reciprocating Canadian jurisdictions.

The move toward greater lawyer mobility began in 1994 when the Federation of Law Societies of Canada adopted an Interjurisdictional Practice Protocol. That Protocol facilitates interjurisdictional practice in Canada by, in most instances, eliminating the requirement that a visiting lawyer from one jurisdiction apply for an interjurisdictional practice permit (formerly called an occasional appearance permit) in another jurisdiction. Instead, the Protocol allows a visiting lawyer to act on up to 10 matters for not more than 20 days during a 12-month period (the "10-20-12 rule").

All four western provinces recently passed rules to implement the Federation Protocol, with the Law Societies of B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan taking another step. They were the first law societies in Canada to further liberalize their rules by dispensing with the Protocol requirement that a visiting lawyer must consult with a lawyer in the host jurisdiction before practising law specific to that jurisdiction.

In 2000 the four western provinces agreed to create a joint Mobility Task Force to consider further increasing the interjurisdictional mobility of lawyers and an Education Task Force to coordinate efforts on education and credentials issues.

The Mobility Task Force has recognized that legal services are now more interjurisdictional, reflecting the globalization of commerce and finance over the past 25 years. The Task Force strongly recommends that it is in the interests of lawyers and their clients that the law societies expand the 10-20-12 rule.

Under the Task Force proposal, a lawyer from one of the four western provinces would be permitted to practise law for up to six months cumulatively within a calendar year on an unlimited number of matters in any other western province (or any other reciprocating province in Canada). There would be no need for prior notification to the host law society and no fee. A lawyer wishing to exceed the six-month limit would be required to become a member of the host law society. The proposal will be considered by the Benchers in B.C. early this year.

The Mobility Task Force considers this proposal a first step towards a future in which lawyers enjoy full mobility, at least within the western provinces.

Another joint initiative of the western law societies, through the Education Task Force, is to coordinate efforts in a comprehensive review of legal education programs – both bar admission and continuing education. Such a review would result in the clearer articulation of the skills and competencies required by lawyers practising today.

At a time of increasing globalization, these initiatives will allow lawyers new opportunities, broader scope to practise where they wish and greater practice efficiencies, and will also make it easier for clients to retain and remain with the lawyers they choose.