2012 ... it was a very good year
by Bruce A. LeRose, QC
“Gasp,” 2012 is drawing to a close — where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting down to pen my first President’s View, and now here I am already mulling over my last opportunity to speak to lawyers as president of the Law Society of British Columbia. Being this is my last column, it seems only proper to reflect on the highlights of 2012.
2012 has been a very eventful year for the Law Society. In the spring, the BC Legislature passed substantial and significant amendments to the Legal Profession Act. These amendments allow the Law Society to be a more effective and transparent regulator of the legal profession, while at the same time providing greater flexibility in our dealings with the profession.
This year also saw the final approval of the Code of Professional Conduct for BC. In March, the Benchers adopted the conflicts of interest provisions in the Federation of Law Societies’ Model Code of Professional Conduct, with adaptations to improve its use in BC. The new BC Code will be in effect as of January 1, 2013.
In June, the Benchers approved comprehensive changes to the Law Society Rules in order to allow for an expanded scope of practice for “designated paralegals.” The Benchers are determined to come up with ways to improve access to affordable legal services. Allowing paralegals to do more is the latest in a series of such initiatives that include greater roles for articled students and the unbundling of legal services. January 2013 will bring the public launch of the paralegal changes and the Law Society encourages lawyers to take up the opportunity to have their paralegals participate in the two-year pilot project with the courts.
In late October 2012, the Benchers approved a “road map” for a complete overhaul of Law Society governance. The plan will provide clear direction to the Benchers in terms of their distinct roles as directors of the Law Society, as regulators of the profession charged with protection of the public interest and, finally, as “trusted advisors” to the profession. These wide-ranging changes to how the Benchers govern will provide clear and objective policies and procedures so that the Benchers will be better equipped for each of the three roles that they are required to fulfill.
Finally, the Benchers have established a Legal Service Provider Task Force, which has been charged with the responsibility to consider the future of legal services regulation. Should the Law Society expand its regulatory authority to cover all non-lawyers who deliver legal services? Should it give up its s.15 responsibility for unauthorized practice and just regulate lawyers? Should it continue the status quo? These are big questions that demand thoughtful responses. Areas such as the educational qualifications and credentialing of non-lawyers will also have to be considered in this context. I am very pleased that the Benchers have agreed to appoint numerous representatives from various stakeholders to this task force so that the approach will be much more inclusive and holistic.
In conclusion, I want to say to all my friends and colleagues across this great province of ours that having the opportunity to be president of the Law Society for 2012 has been the single greatest honour of my life. My nine years as a Bencher have been more personally rewarding than I can ever express. I want to acknowledge CEO Tim McGee, the management team at the Law Society and all of the hard-working staff who are so dedicated to helping the Benchers fulfill their mandate to protect the public interest, as well as responding to the many needs of BC lawyers. Finally, I want to congratulate my successor, Art Vertlieb, QC, whom I have had the pleasure of working with over the past nine years. I have no doubt that he will provide strong, decisive leadership in 2013, and will be a terrific ambassador for our profession.