Law firm regulation – consultation

The Law Firm Regulation Task Force continues to seek input from lawyers.

Regulating law firms as well as individual lawyers aims to provide more efficient and effective regulation – both from the public and the lawyer perspective. It is meant to simplify and improve the regulatory process from the perspective of the individual lawyer, not to create additional regulatory burden.

If firms were regulated, they would bear responsibility for activities that transcend the work of any individual lawyer, including, for example, advertising, accounting or file management.

For example, a firm’s advertising practices could raise ethical concerns. Under the current system, the regulator has no choice but to investigate the matter through an individual lawyer within that firm rather than investigate the firm’s practices. If law firms themselves are regulated, the Law Society could investigate the firm’s practices directly and the firm would bear responsibility for its collective conduct.

Law firm regulation would ensure that firms have systems in place to ensure that lawyers do not find themselves in a conflict of interest, or that the firm has protocols in place to ensure privacy and confidentiality when required. If they are effective, these systems and protocols would flag problems before they affect clients or raise other issues that could lead to a complaint. The Law Society would not prescribe what those systems or protocols would look like, but would leave it to each firm to devise a system that suits its unique circumstances.

Regulating both law firms and lawyers can therefore improve regulation in two ways. First, a proactive approach to regulation aims to address problems or concerns before they become issues for clients. The current approach is primarily reactive, responding to conduct that has already occurred. Second, law firm regulation regulates areas that firms are responsible for, taking that burden off individual lawyers and making it the collective responsibility of the firm.

Entity regulation is not unique to BC, or Canada. Regulators of the legal profession in England, Europe and Australia have adopted various forms of law firm regulation. In Canada, other law societies are studying how best to apply law firm regulation to the legal profession in their province.

Making law firm regulation a reality is part of the Law Society’s Strategic Plan for 2015-2017. In the fall of 2014 the Law Firm Regulation Task Force was created and given the mandate of recommending a framework for regulating law firms.

Consultation with the profession is underway

The task force thanks everyone who participated in the consultations to date. Over 100 lawyers responded to a survey in November 2015 and over 110 lawyers attended sessions that were held in 11 cities around the province in February 2016.

It's not too late to be heard. Lawyers are encouraged to provide their comments for the task force to consider:

by email: firmregulation@lsbc.org

by letter:

Law Firm Regulation Task Force
c/o Michael Lucas
Law Society of British Columbia
845 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 4Z9

If you would like the Law Firm Regulation Task Force to bring any future consultation opportunities to your attention, please provide your name and email address to firmregulation@lsbc.org.

Background materials

Interim Report of the Law Firm Regulation Task Force, October 3, 2016

Law firm regulation consultation presentation, February 2016

Law firm regulation survey report 

Consultation Brief: a background brief summarizing the task force’s work as of November 2015 and the issues being considered

FAQs: answers to commonly asked questions.