Practice Watch

by Barbara Buchanan, Practice Advisor

Supreme Court of Canada hears PST appeal

The Law Society appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada on March 21, 2007 as an intervenor in Christie v. The Attorney General of BC 2005 BCCA 631. The full court of nine judges heard the appeal. Judgment has been reserved.

The current order of the BC Court of Appeal declares that the tax on legal services is unconstitutional to the extent that it purports to tax legal services related to the determination of rights and obligations by courts of law or independent administrative tribunals.

The Law Society website and the Consumer Taxation Branch website contain information about the treatment of PST on lawyers’ accounts in light of the BCCA ruling. This information may change following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision.

GST on disbursements

The Law Society’s practice advisors receive many calls about the applicability of GST to lawyers’ disbursements. Detailed information about this is contained in the Canada Revenue Agency’s GST/HST Policy Statement P-209R, which is available on the CRA’s website at If you have a general inquiry regarding the policy statement or the treatment of GST on a disbursement, contact CRA’s GST/HST Rulings Centre at 1-800-959-8287 (English) or 1-800-959-8296 (French).

Law firm names – sole proprietors

When choosing a firm name, lawyers should consider the marketing provisions in Chapter 14 of the Professional Conduct Handbook. Lawyers practising as sole practitioners should not choose a firm name that suggests that more than one lawyer makes up the firm. For example, the following names would be improper for a sole practitioner:

  • Smith & Company, Barristers & Solicitors
  • Smith, Jones and Black, Barristers & Solicitors
  • Smith and Partners
  • Smith and Associates.

The following names would not be improper:

  • Smith & Company, with Bill Smith shown with the words “Barrister & Solicitor”
  • Smith, Jones and Black, with Bill Smith shown with the words “Barrister & Solicitor”
  • Smith Law Group.