E-Brief: March 2013
Recommendation to be made to Benchers to rescind BC Code commentary regarding disbursements
The Law Society has received comments about a portion of the new Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia (BC Code): the commentary associated with rule 3.6-3 on fees and disbursements. In response, the Ethics Committee will recommend to the Benchers at their April 5, 2013 meeting that commentary  of rule 3.6-3 be rescinded pending further consultation with the profession. While there is little disagreement with the rule itself - lawyers must clearly describe fees and disbursements in a statement of account - the commentary makes the distinction between third-party disbursements on behalf of a client and "other charges," and suggests that other charges must be agreed to, in advance, by clients. The Law Society regrets that this was not brought to the attention of the profession in advance of the Code coming into effect, and we apologize for any inconvenience. Lawyers who have already adjusted their billing systems to comply with commentary  can continue to bill in accordance with the commentary. Otherwise, lawyers are reminded that they are required to comply with the rules in section 3.6 of the Code. Details on this issue and information on how to comment.
Transitioning back to the PST
Lawyers should be aware BC is transitioning back to the Provincial Sales Tax effective April 1, 2013. All lawyers who render client accounts must be registered with the provincial government before that date, whether or not they had been previously registered. For information, lawyers should refer to the government's Provincial Sales Tax Regulation and the Provincial Sales Tax Exemption and Refund Regulation of March 1, 2013. Also see the Provincial Sales Tax Notice for legal services and the Provincial Sales Tax Act. Lawyers with a specific question should contact Law Society Practice Advisor Dave Bilinsky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information will be posted to the Law Society website shortly.
Call for volunteers for conduct reviews and meetings
The Law Society is inviting lawyers to volunteer to assist with conduct reviews and conduct meetings, which are a form of discipline that can be ordered by the Discipline Committee. Volunteers whose applications are accepted should be prepared to serve for approximately two years and be appointed to one to four conduct reviews or meetings a year. More information about this volunteer position.
Lawyers as arbitrators under the new Family Law Act
The new Family Law Act comes into force March 18, 2013 and replaces the Family Relations Act. The Credentials Committee has decided that all existing lawyers who are presently acting as family law mediators, family law arbitrators, and/or parenting coordinators will have until January 1, 2014 to meet the new training requirements recommended by the Family Law Task Force. See Part 3, Division 3 of the Law Society Rules, Appendix B of the Code of Professional Conduct for BC and the report of the Family Law Task Force.
The new Limitation Act comes into force June 1, 2013. Lawyers should familiarize themselves with the new legislation so they can properly advise clients about future claims. More information about the Act is available on the Law Society website. In addition, the BC government has developed comprehensive resources designed to explain the new legislation and help the legal community and the public transition to the new law. These resources, including a transition rules flowchart, can be found here.
Working group to address practice fees for non-profit lawyers
The Law Society has assembled a new working group to follow up on the member resolution at the 2012 Annual General Meeting. The resolution, which was passed by a vote of 85:75, called for research into the feasibility of creating a class of membership for non-profit lawyers, with a reduced rate of practice fees. The members of the working group are Benchers Jan Lindsay, QC (Chair), Bill Maclagan and David Mossop, QC.
BC Code on YouTube
Lawyers who missed the two-part course on the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia offered by the Law Society and the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC can catch it online. Parts one and two, originally broadcast via CLETV on January 29 and February 6, have been posted to the Law Society's YouTube channel and are eligible for continuing professional development credits. See Approved Education Activities for details.
From the courts
Justice Finch retirement dinner
Chief Justice Lance Finch is retiring from the British Columbia Court of Appeal. Chief Justice Finch graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from UBC in 1962. He practised with a Vancouver firm for 20 years, served as a trial judge of the BC Supreme Court beginning in 1983 and then the Court of Appeal in 1993, and became Chief Justice of BC in 2001. A retirement dinner will be held at the Westin Bayshore Hotel on June 6, 2013. Tickets are available here.