Unauthorized practice of law
The Law Society routinely investigates allegations of unauthorized legal practice. The Legal Profession Act restricts the practice of law to qualified lawyers to protect consumers from unqualified and unregulated legal service providers.
Section 1 of the Legal Profession Act defines the practice of law while section 15 states that only a practising lawyer is entitled to practise law. Section 85 makes it an offence to practise law if you are not a lawyer. It is important to note that the practice of law is defined as providing a variety of legal services “for a fee, gain or reward, direct or indirect.” Non-lawyers who provide or offer to provide legal advice but are not seeking a fee are not violating the statute, unless they are suspended or disbarred lawyers.
Other exceptions are notaries public in BC who are entitled to provide a limited range of legal services — primarily real estate conveyancing and certain types of wills and affidavits. As well, registered immigration consultants are regulated by the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants. Consultants appearing before workers’ compensation board tribunals are not regulated.
Anyone with questions regarding the right of a person who is not a member of the Law Society of BC to provide legal services should contact the society at 604-669-2533 or 1-800-903-5300.
In 2008, the Law Society obtained court orders and consent orders from the Supreme Court of BC prohibiting the following individuals and businesses from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law or punishing them for contempt of orders that the Law Society had previously obtained to prevent them from engaging in unauthorized practice:
Fred Yehia, a disbarred lawyer in Vancouver, was found in contempt of court for failing to pay funds in accordance with a November 4, 2006 order made in earlier contempt proceedings. He has since paid those funds. Madam Justice Marion Allan of the Supreme Court of BC has ordered him to pay a fine of $1,450 as well as special costs.
Auguste Christiane Von Pfahlenburg of Vancouver consented to be found in contempt of court when he breached an injunction made on January 31, 2006 prohibiting him from practising law. Mr. Justice Selwyn Romilly of the Supreme Court of BC placed him on conditions and ordered him to complete 100 hours of community work and pay $3,000 in special costs. He was also prohibited from identifying himself as a lawyer or practitioner of foreign law.
Norman Gill of Gill Consulting Services was acting in civil matters and identifying himself as a legal representative. A Supreme Court of BC order has prohibited him from practising law and has ordered him to pay costs.
Fareed M. Raza and F & A Accounting have been prohibited by the Supreme Court from preparing incorporation and other corporate documents and ordered to pay costs.
Robert Hart of 150 Mile House has consented to an injunction prohibiting him from appearing as counsel or advocate or otherwise providing legal services and ordering him to pay costs.
Blair Franko of IPX Consulting in Kelowna has consented to an order prohibiting him from giving legal advice, appearing as counsel or advocate, or preparing documents for use in a proceeding. He was ordered to pay costs.
Robert Arthur Menard of North Vancouver has been prohibited by the Supreme Court from appearing as counsel, preparing documents for use in proceedings, and identifying himself in any way that suggests he is a lawyer. He was also ordered to pay costs.
Casey Brannigan of CRB Communications in Penticton has consented to a Supreme Court order prohibiting him from acting as counsel and preparing documents, and ordered him to pay costs.
AKL Management Limited, doing business on the internet as The Family Law Centre of North York, Ontario, has consented to an order prohibiting it from preparing family court documents and wills. The court also ordered that it pay costs to the Law Society.
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In 2008, the Law Society obtained undertakings from 34 individuals and businesses to stop engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The most common breach of the Legal Profession Act continues to be bookkeepers or people who provide business services preparing incorporation documents for a fee.
In the past year the Law Society also received undertakings from a number of non-lawyers preparing divorce documents as well as separation agreements for a fee. While not as common, the Law Society also received undertakings from non-lawyers who prepared wills, provided legal advice and services in relation to ICBC claims and other insurance claims, and appeared before and drafted documents for administrative tribunals and courts.