E-Brief: June 2012

Benchers approve enhanced role for paralegals

At their June meeting, the Benchers adopted new rules and agreed on some important steps toward enhancing the role of paralegals. Specifically, a lawyer will be permitted to supervise two "designated paralegals" who will be entitled to perform a number of additional legal services, including giving legal advice and appearing in court on certain matters. The Benchers and the courts have elected to try the new provisions for a period of time, the details of which have yet to be determined, so as to properly assess this significant new development intended to provide the public with greater access to more affordably-priced legal services. More information will be made available in the coming months.

Submission to government's review of justice system provided by Law Society

The Law Society has provided a submission to Geoffrey Cowper, QC's review of the justice system on behalf of the provincial government. The Law Society remains interested in working with all justice system stakeholders in a broad-based approach to enhance access to legal services. Download the submission (PDF).

Update on bad cheque scam

On June 1, 2012 the Law Society sent a Fraud Alert about a bad cheque scam. Since then, over 12 lawyers in various parts of the province have reported the scam. It has also been reported in Ontario and is expected to continue to spread. Lawyers are encouraged to be vigilant and know that scamsters sometimes target law firms just before a long weekend to increase the time for the ruse to go undetected. Learn what you can do to protect yourself from this and other bad cheque scams.

Lawyers interested in Law Society appointments may register online

The Law Society regularly appoints lawyers to boards, councils and committees of outside bodies. The appointments are made by the Benchers, Executive Committee or the President, under authority conferred by the Legal Profession Act, Bencher resolutions, and the governing statutes, constitutions and by-laws of those outside bodies. Lawyers who are interested in being appointed are encouraged to learn more and apply online.

Benchers annual retreat focuses on governance

At their annual retreat in June, the Benchers heard from experts on the topics of governance and public perception of the role of regulators. The retreat supported the work of the Governance Review Task Force, which is currently assessing the Law Society's governance processes with the intent to modernize the Benchers' approach to their policy-making and oversight roles. Recommendations from the review are expected to be submitted to the Benchers by the fall.

Recent changes to rules made following passage of the Bill 40

Further to last month's E-Brief announcing the new Legal Profession Amendment Act, 2012, a number of related changes to Law Society Rules were approved by the Benchers at the June meeting. While other rules will be developed in the coming months, among the new rules are the adoption of a definition of pro bono services and confirmation that non-practising and retired lawyers as well as in-house counsel may engage in pro bono activities; provision for increased maximum fines; changes to how the annual practice fee is set; removal of references to the Special Compensation Fund fee; and a prohibition from resigning in the face of disciplinary proceedings without the consent of the Law Society.

2011 financial statements now available

The Law Society's latest annual audited financial statements, which provide a thorough overview of how fees were spent and disbursed in 2011, have been posted to the website.

Latest Discipline Advisory warns lawyers to watch for restraining orders on family assets before registering a mortgage

It is common in family matters for an order to be made that restrains the parties from disposing of or otherwise encumbering family assets. These orders are generally made under s. 67 of the Family Relations Act and cover the family home and other family assets. Lawyers who wish to secure their fees by registering a mortgage against a family home should first carefully review the entire file to ensure that no such restraining order exists. If a restraining order has been made, the lawyer must ensure that the client complies with the order or it is varied or the appropriate consents are obtained in writing. Read more.

Phase 3 of required e-filing announced by BC Land Title and Survey Authority

The third and final phase of Land Title e-filing requirements will come into effect on November 1, 2012, and includes all Land Title Act and Strata Property Act plans. Read the BC Land Title and Survey Authority announcement and the updated Director's Requirements to File Land Title Forms Electronically (DR 06-11), version 1.4.

Clarification regarding funding of Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII)

In last month's E-Brief, the Law Society neglected to mention that funding of CanLII includes the law foundations of Canada in addition to lawyers and notaries. The Law Society regrets this omission.

From the Supreme Court of BC

The court has extended to July 31, 2012 the grace period during which the registry will accept the old form of certain civil and family orders and affidavits: see the May 29 announcement on the court website.

From the Attorney General

The Ministry of Justice has announced that the remaining amendments to the Family Relations Act as contained in the new Family Law Act will come into effect on March 18, 2013. Read more.

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