Benchers adopt client identification and verification rules

November 19, 2008

At their November meeting, the Benchers adopted the Law Society's client identification and verification rules (Rules 3-91 to 3-102), which take effect December 31, 2008.

The rules were developed by the Act and Rules Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the Benchers and are based on a model rule adopted by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. The rules are designed to codify the steps prudent lawyers would take in the normal course to identify their clients.

After circulating draft rules to Law Society members in July, the Act and Rules Subcommittee recommended several changes, which were adopted by the Benchers, including:

  • Duty counsel for non-profits and lawyers providing pro bono summary advice are excluded from the rules, provided that the circumstances do not involve a "financial transaction" (a defined term);
  • In-house counsel are not subject to the rules when acting in the course of their employment;
  • If a lawyer has completed the identification and verification requirements and refers the client to another lawyer, further client identification and verification will not be required by the second lawyer;
  • The responsibilities of a lawyer may be fulfilled by the lawyer's firm, including members or employees of the firm conducting business in another Canadian jurisdiction;
  • The principle of reasonable efforts has been extended to client identification as well as verification.

Members are asked to read the rules carefully, paying close attention to the definitions — terms such as "client," "financial transaction" and "public company" may not be consistent with common usage.

The text of the rules as adopted by the Benchers is available for viewing on the Law Society website. Copies of the Rules will be circulated to members as part of the Member's Manual amendment package in December.

To help members better understand and follow the rules, the following resources will be made available:

  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs), available on the Law Society website.
  • A new client identification practice checklist, available on the Law Society website prior to December 11.
  • An online course, available beginning December 11, 2008.

For further information or to answer questions you may have about the new rules or the online course, contact Barbara Buchanan, Practice Advisor at 604-697-5816.

Returning to practice

Members are reminded of an important rule change implemented in 2006 that may affect them starting January 1, 2009.

In 2006, the Benchers approved changes to the rules regarding returning to practice. Prior to those amendments, lawyers who wished to return to practice after having their membership lapse, or having been a non-practising member, triggered the "requalification rules". If a lawyer had been absent from practice for more than 3 of the previous 5 year period, and during that period of time had not undertaken activities that amounted to "equivalent practice", the lawyer would generally have to write qualification examinations. However, if the lawyer had maintained a full practising membership during his or her absence from practice, the lawyer could immediately return to practice without any requalification requirements, even if the lawyer had been away from practice for many years. The Benchers were concerned that this would prevent the Law Society from properly discharging its mandate to protect the public interest by ensuring that lawyers returning to practice were current in the law.

The amended rules, approved in 2006, now apply to all lawyers who have been absent from practice, regardless of their membership status. The rules (particularly Rules 2-55 and 2-57) require all current and former members, regardless of their membership status, to meet the requirements for returning to practice when they move to active practice after not having practiced law for a total of three years or more of the "relevant period" as defined in Rule 2-55. However, recognizing that immediate implementation of the rules in 2006 could pose hardships to some members, the rules as implemented in 2006 allowed those lawyers who had not been practising but who had been maintaining practising status to return to active practice without further requirements provided they did so before January 1, 2009.
As that date is rapidly approaching, the Law Society simply wishes to remind any members affected by the implementation of the new rules in 2006 to take note.


Law Society wiki — call for volunteers

The Law Society is looking for volunteers with an interest in civil litigation to test an innovative method of online collaborative learning using the wiki concept.

A wiki is a collection of web pages that anyone with access can edit and contribute to. The collaborative encyclopaedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis.

The Law Society anticipates hosting a wiki/course that lawyers in British Columbia can edit as a means of earning Continuing Professional Development credits, and use as a research resource to assist them in their practice. To test the wiki/course concept, it is planned to offer a course that will deal with the topic of examination for discovery. The course is intended to cover all ranges of experience, from no experience to senior litigators. The pilot project will begin in January 2009 and run for three weeks.

Volunteers will be expected to spend a total of eight hours discussing, researching, and editing content. The course is intended to be interactive and promote learning. Participation in the pilot project will count as eight hours of Continuing Professional Development for 2009 and, depending on the success of the project, future courses may be run to provide lawyers with additional means of meeting their CPD requirements.

For more information or to volunteer for the project, contact Kensi Gounden, Manager, Standards & Professional Development, at 604-605-5321.


ABA TECHSHOW, the world's premier legal technology continuing legal education conference and vendor expo, will take place April 2 to 4, 2009 at the Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. The three-day CLE conference is attended by more than 1,400 people each year and produces more than 50 legal technology CLE programs and training sessions in sixteen topical tracks.

Law Society members are eligible for a $150 discount on registration — enter promotional code #EP929 to take advantage of this offer. Register before February 28, 2009 to receive an additional early bird discount.

For more information about the conference visit