From the Ethics Committee

Code of Professional Conduct

At the end of October 2009 the Federation of Law Societies adopted a Model Code of Conduct, based on the work that two Federation committees have done since 2005. The Federation Model Code encompasses most of the issues currently addressed by individual codes of conduct adopted by Canadian law societies. Two important issues have not yet been concluded by the Federation and incorporated in the Model Code: conflicts, generally, and the public safety exception to confidentiality. A special committee of the Federation is currently working on the conflicts issue and the Federation expects to have rules addressing the remaining issues before the end of the year.

The Federation’s intention in adopting the Model Code is to encourage more uniform codes of professional conduct among law societies. Although the Federation recognizes that each jurisdiction is solely responsible for its own code, law societies hope that the availability of a Model Code that has been compiled with the assistance of all jurisdictions, together with a process for reconsidering and revising the Model Code into the future, will lead to substantial congruence among rules of conduct in the various jurisdictions. This should assist lawyers who work in multiple jurisdictions in Canada in understanding professional rules from one jurisdiction to another.

If the Law Society of BC were to adopt the Model Code, or a version of it, the Code would replace our current Professional Conduct Handbook as the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia.

The Law Society’s Ethics Committee has been monitoring the development of the Model Code, and Ethics Committee members and staff, along with representatives from other jurisdictions in Canada, have been active participants in the development of the Model Code. The Benchers have assigned to the Ethics Committee the task of reviewing the Model Code and making recommendations to the Benchers about adopting it in whole or in part. The Committee expects to make those recommendations toward the end of 2010 or the first part of 2011, depending on the progress the Federation makes on the conflicts and public safety portion of the Code.

The Chair of the Ethics Committee, Gavin Hume, QC, reported to the Benchers in December 2009 that the Committee was inclined to recommend adoption of the Model Code, with necessary changes for BC-specific issues. The Committee plans to consult with BC lawyers about the Code and will post the completed Federation Model Code, together with proposed changes to the Code for British Columbia, to the Law Society website before making their recommendations to the Benchers.

Because the Federation Model Code is not complete, it is not yet posted on the Law Society website. However, lawyers who are interested in reviewing the Model Code in its current state, or who want to obtain further information about the Code or the process for its review by the Law Society, may contact:

Jack Olsen
Staff Lawyer – Ethics
Tel. direct: 604-443-5711
Toll-free in BC: 1-800-903-5300