News Releases

For immediate release September 17, 2002

Law Society announces new program to protect real estate purchasers

VANCOUVER – The Law Society of B.C. is taking steps to resolve issues relating to Special Compensation Fund claims arising from financial and procedural irregularities in the practice of former lawyer Martin Wirick.

At a meeting on September 14, the Law Society's Benchers unanimously resolved to remove the $17.5 million cap on Special Fund claims. Law Society President Richard Gibbs, QC explained that the repeal means: "The Benchers guarantee that any awards made by the Special Compensation Fund Committee, to whatever amount, will be paid."

Since 1949 the Law Society of B.C. has maintained a Special Compensation Fund to reimburse anyone who has money misappropriated by a lawyer acting in his or her capacity as a barrister and solicitor. The Special Compensation Fund is currently insured for $17.5 million in losses. As of Sept. 12, 2002, the Law Society has received 108 claims for $18.3 million arising from Mr. Wirick's law practice. At present, these claims are unproven and all claims are subject to investigation and audit before presentation to the Special Compensation Fund Committee.

The Benchers also approved in principle a proposed program to protect purchasers of real estate against fraudulent conveyancing or mortgage practices. To fund the new insurance program it is anticipated that every lawyer will pay a fee (estimated at $30) for each real estate transaction he or she is involved in.

"This new insurance program will be the obligation of the lawyer, not the client, and will augment our existing errors and omissions insurance," Law Society Executive Director James G. Matkin said. The Law Society expects to have the new insurance program in place by Jan. 1, 2003.

In conjunction with the new insurance program, the Law Society is urging banks to adopt a new real estate conveyancing protocol which will eliminate the need for purchasers to obtain a survey certificate in order to obtain mortgage funding. This will result in a potential saving of up to $300 for persons buying residential property.

In addition, the Benchers have asked the Law Society's Conveyancing Practices Task Force to continue its work to identify needed improvements to conveyancing practice to ensure problems do not occur in the future.

The Law Society of B.C. was founded in 1869 and is the governing body of the legal profession in B.C. It is an independent organization funded by dues paid by all B.C. lawyers. Under the provisions of the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society's principal responsibility is to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice by setting standards for the licensing, professional conduct and discipline of the more than 10,000 lawyers in B.C. The Benchers are the directors of the Law Society. All lawyers in B.C. must be members of the Law Society.

Law Society of B.C. media contact:

Brad Daisley, Public Affairs Manager
Office: 604-443-5724 or 1-800-903-5300 toll-free in B.C.
Cellular: 604-836-3257