E-Brief: December 2011
Request for feedback on new draft of conflict rules
The Ethics Committee is seeking the views of BC lawyers on the latest version of some of the conflicts rules developed for the Federation of Law Societies Model Code, and further adapted by the committee. Read the draft. Feedback is requested by January 16, 2012.
Insurance coverage for "bad cheque" scam
The Benchers have approved a plan to provide insurance coverage for the "bad cheque" scams that have surfaced in BC. Effective January 1, 2012, the coverage, specifically tailored for this risk, will provide some protection against shortages of client funds as a result of a fake or forged certified cheque, bank draft, money order or solicitor's trust cheque, provided the client ID and verification rules are met. Through awareness and vigilance, lawyers can significantly reduce the risk of being caught in these frauds, but the Benchers determined that when they are, some insurance coverage is appropriate. Policy wording will be posted to the website shortly, and a full description of the coverage will be in the Spring 2012 Insurance Issues: Program Report. Information about these and other scams is available in the Risk Management section of the website. Email questions to Margrett George or Surindar Nijjar.
2011 practice checklists
The practice checklists have been updated and are available in the Practice Resources section of the website in Word and PDF formats. The updates reflect statutory amendments, new case law and changes in practice, and are current to the date indicated at the beginning of each checklist. See 2011 highlights for an overview of changes since the last publication, or refer to the individual checklists for more details.
Discipline Alert: Bills and retainers are frequent source of complaints
A new Discipline Alert cautions lawyers that the improper handling of client retainers and bills triggers numerous complaints to the Law Society. The Legal Profession Act and the Law Society Rules contain a comprehensive scheme for the handling of funds received from clients. Strict compliance with these provisions, as well as timely and effective communication with clients, is crucial. Read the alert.
Looking ahead to new three-year strategic plan
CEO Tim McGee congratulated Benchers, other volunteers and staff for their work achieving the many important objectives set out in the 2009-2011 Strategic Plan and thanked President Gavin Hume, QC for steering the planning process for the new strategic plan. Improving the public's access to legal services remains one of three primary goals in the new plan, along with achieving greater public confidence in the administration of justice and the rule of law and making the Law Society a more innovative and effective professional regulatory body. Details of the 2012-2014 Strategic Plan will be announced in the New Year.
Bencher election results
Six Benchers have been elected for the first time and 16 were re-elected after the November ballot. Read the results. BC lawyers previously elected the following Benchers as president, first vice-president and second vice-president, respectively, for 2012: Bruce A. LeRose, QC (Kootenay), Art Vertlieb, QC (Vancouver) and Jan Lindsay, QC (Westminster).
The Benchers amended a number of Rules this month, including indefinitely renewing the Territorial Mobility Agreement, which was due to expire on January 1, 2012. Also, the terminology around application fees clarifies that application fees are paid for the benefit of making an application and having it processed. See the Rule amendments.
Mentoring project aimed at helping to retain more Indigenous lawyers
The Law Society is starting a mentoring initiative to help improve the retention of Indigenous lawyers in BC, increase diversity within the legal profession and enhance access to legal services for Indigenous peoples. With a grant from the Law Foundation, the Law Society has hired lawyer Rosalie Wilson to develop a collaborative mentoring program for Indigenous lawyers. The Benchers have identified the retention of Indigenous lawyers as one of the key objectives in the new strategic plan. Read the news release.
Law Society approves development of Justicia - a program to support women lawyers
As part of the new 2012-2014 Strategic Plan, Benchers have approved a plan to bring to BC a program aimed at retaining and advancing women lawyers. The Justicia Project was pioneered by the Law Society of Upper Canada at the end of 2008 and since then has brought together more than 50 firms committed to sharing best practices, developing resources and adopting programs to help women lawyers. BC has completed a feasibility assessment, and will now implement a consultation and engagement plan in 2012. The first phase will focus on BC offices of national firms participating in Justicia in Ontario. The second phase will aim at engaging regional firms. Questions can be directed to Susanna Tam, Staff Lawyer, Policy and Legal Services.
Benchers approve next steps to reconciling legal service qualifications
As part of their commitment to improving public access to legal services the Benchers have adopted recommendations in the Law Society's Report on Reconciling Qualifications for Differing Types of Legal Services. The recommendations are aimed at identifying priorities for the types of legal services that might be offered by a non-lawyer, or a lawyer with a limited licence. Public consultation will be a key part of the initiative.
Sole practitioners encouraged to indicate a winding up caretaker on their trust reports
The Law Society is recommending sole practitioners, in particular, take the critical step of arranging for a winding up caretaker for their practices should they become ill or otherwise unable to practice. Sole practitioners, who have not indicated on their trust reports that they have a caretaker have been contacted by Law Society and encouraged to make such plans before they file their next trust reports. This is part of the Society's campaign launched this summer entitled "Succession planning, it's good practice." Email questions to the Custodianships department or call 604.669.2533.
Reminder: print publication subscription fee
The Law Society will begin charging a fee for print subscriptions to Benchers' Bulletin and Member's Manual to cover printing and mailing costs. Lawyers can change their publication preferences any time by visiting Lawyer Login and have until March 1, 2012 to do so to avoid the fee. If you have any questions, please contact the Law Society. Read the flyer.
Family Law Act introduced
Following consultation with many stakeholders including lawyers, the BC Government has introduced Bill 16, the Family Law Act.
From the courts
BC Supreme Court: PD-32, Manner of Address for Registrars, states that the correct way to address a registrar is "Your Honour." PD-33, Telephone Appearances on Foreclosure Applications, sets out guidelines concerning when petitioners or counsel may appear by telephone on applications in foreclosure proceedings, effective January 2, 2012. BC Court of Appeal: Practice Directive Expedited Appeals Civil and Criminal Practice Directive will replace the present civil practice directive on expediting interlocutory appeals. Federal Court and Appeal Court of Canada: Notice issued seeking feedback from lawyers on a discussion paper on the Federal Court Rules. See the court website.
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