E-Brief: April 2012

2011 Annual Report on Performance recently released

The Law Society's 2011 Annual Report on Performance is now available. The report is an opportunity to assess the Society's ability to act in the public interest by effectively regulating the legal profession. Last year, the Law Society met or exceeded virtually all of its key performance measures, which are targets introduced four years ago described in the report. The Society also completed or commenced more than 95 per cent of the initiatives in the 2009-2011 Strategic Plan. Read the news release.

Lawyers invited to offer services as counsel for lawyers in complaint and discipline matters

To ensure that a wide selection of lawyers throughout the province is available to act as counsel for lawyers who are the subject of investigation and discipline processes, the Law Society is inviting lawyers to put their names forward for a list kept on hand by the Society. Please respond by May 15, 2012. Read the details.

Reminder: online version of Professional Conduct Handbook contains annotations

Lawyers are reminded that the online version of the Professional Conduct Handbook has annotations that are not contained in the print version. Annotations are an important tool for interpretation of the handbook, providing readers with case law, discipline decisions and opinions of the Ethics Committee concerning relevant rules. The new Code of Professional Conduct for BC, which will replace the handbook on January 1, 2013, will include many of the annotations.

Reminder: Lawyers Assistance Program offers confidential, independent support

The Lawyers Assistance program, though funded by the Law Society, is completely separate from the Society and is a confidential service. It provides support, counselling, referrals and peer interventions for lawyers, their families, support staff and articled students who need help to deal with alcohol or chemical dependencies, stress, depression or other personal problems. Based on the concept of "lawyers helping lawyers," the Lawyers Assistance Program relies on a network of volunteers from the BC legal community. More information is available on LAP's website.

Succession planning webinar video available for CPD credit

Lawyers who missed out on the Law Society's March 8, 2012 webinar, Succession Planning, it's good practice, can now view it online and still obtain continuing professional development credit, provided it is viewed with at least one other lawyer or articled student by December 31, 2012. Succession planning is critical for sole practitioners in the event that a sudden illness or other circumstance prevents them from practising. View the webinar.

Law Society online list of courses includes free webinar offering by CLE and Access Pro Bono

The Law Society's website includes a searchable public listing of all legal courses offered by various course providers and approved by the Law Society for continuing professional development credit. Recent additions include a complimentary first webinar in a series about pro bono being offered by Continuing Legal Education Society of BC and Access Pro Bono. Each webinar qualifies for one hour of CPD credit.

Recent Rule amendments

A tariff of costs now applies to discipline hearings, bringing the Law Society in line with the law of costs governing administrative tribunals (Rule 5-9 and Schedule 4 to the Law Society Rules).

Law Society provides input to government's consideration of amendments to Notaries Act

The Law Society is aware that the Society of Notaries Public of BC is seeking amendments to its legislation to allow for a greater scope of practice that includes probate applications, preparation of wills with more sophisticated trusts, incorporations and routine corporate resolutions, and non-contentious and cohabitation marriage agreements. The Law Society was asked by the Ministry of Justice to comment on the proposal. The Society's response was intended to provide the minister with background and the Law Society's perspective on the issues presented by the proposed expansion of scope. The Law Society response is focused on two questions. The first is whether the proposal protects the public in the delivery of legal services and the second is whether access to legal services is improved. There have been several meetings between the Law Society and ministry staff as well as a meeting with the minister to share the Law Society's views.

From the courts

The BC Supreme Court has issued several notices. Changes to the Civil and Family Rules and certain forms, pursuant to Order in Council 192, came into effect on April 25, 2012: see the April 3 announcement. Practice Direction 34, concerning Masters' jurisdiction to conduct trial management conferences, and Practice Direction FPD-8 - Divorce Applications, were issued to coincide with the rule amendments. Also, a Direction to the Registry implements a grace period, which expires on May 30, 2012, during which the registry will accept Supreme Court Civil and Family Forms which were repealed by Order in Council 192.

New website to discuss justice reform

You are invited to provide comment through a new website established to facilitate an independent review of BC's justice system. Earlier this year, Vancouver lawyer Geoff Cowper, QC was asked by the provincial government to conduct the review. At the same time, the Ministry of Justice released a Green Paper, which summarizes some of the concerns identified by the provincial government. The goals of the review are to look at the facts underlying concerns with the system and to recommend solutions that would make it more efficient and effective. Visit bcjusticereform.ca

Government introduces new Limitation Act and Justice Statute Amendments Act

On April 16, 2012, the BC government introduced new legislation that is intended to simplify the time limits for filing civil lawsuits. If passed, it will replace the current Limitation Act, which dates back to 1975. The proposed new Act will make the law easier to understand and bring BC more in line with other provinces. Read more information on the Justice Ministry's website. The government has also introduced Bill 33, the Justice Statutes Amendment Act, which will affect a number of statutes, including the Court of Appeal Act, the Election Act, the Enforcement of Canadian Judgments and Decrees Act, the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act and the Motor Vehicle Act. Read the release.

Reminder: Phase two of required e-filing to Land Title Office

Phase two of required e-filing of land title documents comes into effect on May 7, 2012. In addition to documents required to be e-filed in Phase 1, Claims of Builders Lien, all Form A transfers, forms and applications under the Strata Property Act, Form 17s (including any supporting documents) and a variety of plans will be required to be e-filed. For more information on requirements and exemptions, refer to Director's Requirements DR 06-11.

Law firms in rural communities invited to apply for summer student funding

Funding is now available to small-community law firms for approved summer positions for second-year law students. The funding is part of the Rural Education and Access Initiative (REAL), a program jointly funded by the Law Society and the CBABC. Contact REAL for more information.

Law Society revealed: a one-day insider's view through Twitter

The Law Society provided the public with a glimpse of its inner workings on Wednesday, April 18 when it showcased the work it was doing in real time on Twitter @LawSocietyofBC. The Society sent and responded to 100 tweets covering everything from phone calls it received outlining concerns about the conduct of a lawyer to information about the regular auditing process of trust accounts carried out by the Society. The event was part of the Society's ongoing commitment to transparency and accountability, and was initiated as part of Law Week.

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Send your comments or questions to communications@lsbc.org.