E-Brief: November 2013

Bencher election results to be posted Saturday, November 16

Lawyers are reminded ballots for the 2013 Bencher election must be received at the Law Society on or before the close of business on Thursday, November 14. Votes will be counted on November 15, and the results will be published on the Law Society website on Saturday, November 16. More information is available on the Bencher elections web page.

2013 Justice Summit

The second Justice Summit was held November 8-9 at Allard Hall at the University of British Columbia. The summit brought together senior leaders from across the justice system, including the Chief Justice of BC and other members of the judiciary, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the defence bar, Crown and police. The summit focused on goals and objectives for the criminal justice system, including fairness, protection, sustainability and public confidence. The Law Society was represented by CEO Tim McGee, who acted as moderator, Second Vice-President Ken Walker, QC, who participated in a panel discussion on public confidence, and Policy and Legal Services Manager Michael Lucas. A regular Justice Summit was one of the recommendations made by Geoffrey Cowper, QC in his 2012 final report, A Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century. For more, see the government news release.

PST and legal services

The provincial government has issued an updated Provincial Sales Tax (PST) Bulletin related to legal services. Among other updates, the bulletin notes disbursements are generally not subject to PST. Disbursements are described as a request for the reimbursement of an out-of-pocket expense that was incurred on behalf of a client and owed to a third party. Other billing items which are in-house charges of the lawyer or law firm, including mileage, faxes, photocopying and printing, are generally subject to PST, with limited exceptions. For more, see PST Bulletin 106 on the government website, contact the province at 1.877.388-4440 or via email at CTBTaxQuestions@gov.bc.ca.

Updates to Practice Checklists Manual

The Law Society has updated the Practice Checklists Manual for 2013. The 2013 update reflects Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia rule changes, statutory amendments, new cases and changes in practice. Highlights are posted on the Law Society website. Lawyers should note highlights are not exhaustive, so see the checklists for more details. The manual consists of 41 checklists in core subject areas (corporate and commercial, criminal, family, litigation, real estate, wills and estates, human rights, immigration) and for client identification and verification.

Trust Administration Fee to increase January 1, 2014

Lawyers who handle trust account transactions are reminded the Benchers approved an increase in the Trust Administration Fee (TAF) from $10 to $15 per applicable transaction, effective January 1, 2014. TAF applies to a variety of client matters, one of the largest being those in the area of real estate. TAF revenue has steadily decreased from 2005, generally following the trend line of BC real estate unit sales. In order to continue funding the Trust Assurance Program, the TAF must be increased. This is the first fee increase since it was introduced in March 2005.

Presentation to the Benchers on access to justice

At their November meeting, the Benchers heard a presentation on access to justice from Dr. Melina Buckley, chair of the Canadian Bar Association's (CBA) Access to Justice Committee. Dr. Buckley spoke about the CBA report Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation to Envision and Act. She stressed the importance of looking at access to justice solutions within an overall strategic framework, and called on lawyers to "think systemically, act locally."

Latest Discipline Advisory: Know your obligations before accepting cash

Lawyers are reminded to review their obligations under Law Society Rules 3-51.1 (the "no-cash" rule) and 3-61.1 (records of cash transactions) before accepting cash from a client. Generally, lawyers are precluded from accepting an aggregate amount of $7,500 or more in cash with respect to any one client matter or transaction. The 2004 rule reflects the Law Society's recognition that the profession must take steps to help prevent money laundering. For more, see the Discipline Advisory.

From the courts

Practice Direction - 43: Civil Marriage Act - Procedures for Divorce. PD-43 sets out the procedural requirements for a non-resident same-sex couple who married in British Columbia, to obtain a divorce under the Civil Marriage Act.

Court of Appeal Criminal Practice Directive - Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.


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