E-Brief: February 2012

New President and Benchers take oath of office

At the Benchers' first meeting of the year on January 27, 2012, Bruce LeRose, QC was sworn in as president by Lance Finch, Chief Justice of BC. Also sworn into office were first vice president Art Vertlieb, QC, second vice president Jan Lindsay, QC, and all other Benchers. The president welcomed six new Benchers elected last November: Bill Maclagan (Vancouver County), Maria Morellato, QC (Vancouver County), Vincent Orchard, QC (Vancouver County), Phil Riddell (Westminster County), Tony Wilson (Vancouver County) and Barry Zacharias (Prince Rupert County).

New Strategic Plan approved by Benchers

The Benchers began 2012 guided by a new strategic plan, which was finalized in December. There are three principal goals in the three-year plan: the Law Society will be a more innovative and effective professional regulatory body; the public will have better access to legal services; and the public will have greater confidence in the administration of justice and the rule of law. Read the plan.

Review of Law Society governance to get underway in 2012

The Benchers have struck a task force to carry out a governance review of the Law Society. It has been more than 17 years since the role and work of the Benchers has been assessed, noted President Bruce LeRose, QC. "Our governance review will be an opportunity for the Benchers to step up and take responsibility for modernizing our roles as Benchers, our approaches to setting policy and being effective regulators and, finally, the overall makeup of this table and the committees for which we are responsible."

Discipline Alert: Quality of service requirements are same for pro bono and legal aid work

The Professional Conduct Handbook requires that a lawyer provide a quality of service to clients that is at least equal to what would be expected of a competent lawyer in a similar situation (Chapter 3, Rule 3). Standards are not relaxed when a lawyer is acting pro bono or if the file is funded by the Legal Services Society. More information on this and other discipline alerts is available on the website.

Pilot project on national discipline standards

The Federation of Law Societies established a steering committee to develop national standards for investigating and disciplining lawyers and to test those standards in a pilot project. The Law Society of BC's representative on the steering committee, Chief Legal Officer Deborah Armour, reported to Benchers that the two-year pilot project will soon be launched. It defines uniformly high standards for timeliness, public participation, transparency, accessibility, quality, the qualification and training of adjudicators and mandatory training of investigators and/or members of "charging bodies" (such as the Discipline Committee).

Updated cloud computing report published

After receiving feedback from lawyers, the Law Society has issued an updated report on cloud computing and the practice of law, including due diligence guidelines when using the cloud for remote data storage or processing. A related checklist and revisions to the Law Society Rules will be forthcoming. Read the updated report.

Modest updates to CPD program

A modest set of changes have been made to the Continuing Professional Development program effective January 1, 2012. In particular, the "audience test" will be eliminated, no longer requiring that the material be primarily designed for an audience in which lawyers are a principal component. Also, the restrictions around mentorship have been loosened, to allow for electronic communications and to eliminate the minimum time requirement. This and other updates result from a review of the program, which included a survey of lawyers last spring. Read the changes.

Sole practitioners invited to learn more about succession planning -- Free webinar qualifies for CPD credit

The Law Society is partnering with the Continuing Legal Education Society to provide a free webinar of expert advice to assist sole practitioners, in particular, with putting in place a winding up caretaker. The Law Society recommends this critical step for all sole practitioners who have not yet indicated on their trust reports that they have a caretaker. The webinar is part of the Society's campaign launched last summer entitled Succession planning, it's good practice. Register for webinar. Questions can be emailed in advance to Custodianships, or call 604.669.2533. The webinar will take place Thursday, March 8, 2012 from 12 pm to 1pm.

Reminder: Required Land Title Office e-filing

With the advent on January 16, 2012 of required e-filing for transfers of fee simple, mortgages and other charges, lawyers should keep in mind their obligations in affixing a digital signature to electronic filings in the Land Title Office. These are summarized in a recent article in the Benchers' Bulletin. In particular, a lawyer may not authorize or permit anyone else to affix his or her signature to an electronic filing and the Law Society may consider it a discipline violation if the lawyer does so.

Lawyers invited to submit information for work with Legal Services Branch

The Legal Services Branch of BC's Ministry of the Attorney General recently posted two Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) on BC Bid. One is for general legal services. The second is for legal services for the Civil Forfeiture Office. The RFQs are an invitation to all lawyers in BC and elsewhere to submit information about themselves to assist in the selection of outside counsel. Making a submission to one of the RFQs is a requirement to work on behalf of the Legal Services Branch. An information package and further details can be obtained from the Branch's Procurement and Contracts Coordinator at brenda.walker@gov.bc.ca.

Reminder and clarification: print publication subscription fee

Starting March 1, 2012, lawyers may receive all Law Society publications electronically, free of charge. After that date, the Law Society will be charging a fee for print subscriptions to Benchers' Bulletin and Member's Manual amendment packages to cover printing and mailing costs. If you wish to receive print versions of these publications, you must make your preference known by logging in to Lawyer Login > My Settings, making the appropriate selections and then paying the related invoice. Lawyers who do not pay for print subscriptions will be automatically switched to free, electronic subscriptions after March 1, 2012. If you have any questions, please contact the Law Society. Read the flyer.

From the courts

Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court: The Federal Courts Rules Committee is seeking feedback from lawyers on a possible global review of the Federal Courts Rules. Deadline for comment is February 17, 2012. See the discussion paper on the court website.

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