Highlights of Amendments to the Law Society Rules

Law Society Rules 2015 – Highlights of amendments

July 2020

The voters list in an election will be made available electronically, and can be updated at any time until the close of voting (Rules 1-25(2), 1-26(1) to (4), 1-27(1) and 1-38(3)); changes allowing the Credentials Committee more flexibility in setting the offer date and recruitment schedule (Rule 2-58(4) and (6)); the Executive Director has discretion to grant students a second or third opportunity to complete the Professional Legal Training Course (Rules 2-72(6) and 2-74(1) to (3), (5) to (7) and (9)).

May 2020

The discretion to publish a citation is removed (Rule 4-20) and a new rule establishes the criteria for anonymous publication of a citation (Rule 4-20.1).

April 2020

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rules have been amended to give the Executive Director a discretion to extend the payment of the second instalment of the indemnity fee (Rules 2-105(3), 2-108(1) and (3) and 3-41(1)); lawyers may use electronic documents or information obtained through public bodies, such as BC Online, to verify the identity of an organization (Rule 3-102(3.1)).

December 2019

  • The Executive Director may disclose to law enforcement agencies evidence of an offence that has been gathered in the course of a complaint investigation, a practice standards investigation, an application for admission, enrolment or reinstatement, or a claim made under trust protection insurance, with the consent of the Discipline Committee (Rules 2-53(4), 3-3(5), 3-23(3), 3-46(5) and 4-8(5)); the party initiating a review must deliver six copies of the record to the President, rather than the previous eight (Rule 5-24.1(1)).
  • Client identification and verification (effective January 1, 2020): the responsibilities of a lawyer may be fulfilled by the lawyer’s firm, wherever located (Rule 3-99(3)); requirements to retain records include records of required monitoring activities (Rule and 3-107(3)). 
  • Indemnification program (effective January 1, 2020): References to the “insurance” program have been updated to “indemnity” and “indemnification” to align with changes to the Legal Profession Act (Rules 2-16(3) and (6), 2-29(2), 2-32, 2-40(2), 2-47, 2-49(1), 2-77(1), 2-79(1), 2-82(1), 2-85(4), 2-105, 2-115(1), 2-116(1), 2-117(1), 3-39 to 3-46, 3-79(6) and Schedules 1 and 2).

October 2019

The process for selecting members of the Executive Committee is slightly modified (Rules 1-41 and 1-50(1)); the procedure for ordering the investigation of books and accounts has been streamlined, and the time for a lawyer to request that certain information be excluded from an investigation has been changed from 7 to 21 days (Rule  4-55); the President or designate may extend the time for a party to initiate a review of a tribunal decision (new Rule 5-19.1).

July 2019

  • Trust accounts and cash transactions: Lawyers may not move funds into or out of their trust accounts unless the funds are directly related to legal services (Rule 1 definition of "trust funds" and Rules 3-53, 3-58.1, 3-59, 3-70(1) and 3-98(1)); lawyers are prohibited from accepting more than $7,500 in cash, which increases the previous amount by one cent for consistency with the updated Federation of Law Societies model rule (Rule 3-59). For more information, see the Notice to the Profession.
  • General meeting reform: New and amended rules give effect to the results of the member referendum on general meeting reform (Rules 1-8(5) to (9), 1-9(3), 1-11(5), 1-13(2), (4), (12.1), (13), (15), (15.1), (16) and (17), 1-13.1 and 1-13.2).
  • Client identification and verification (effective January 1, 2020)The Benchers have approved changes to the client identification and verification rules to take effect on January 1, 2020; these amended rules are published on the website following the current rules (Rules 3-98(1), 3-99(1.1), (2) and (2.1), 3-100, 3-101, 3-102, 3-103, 3-104, 3-105(2), 3-106, 3-107(3) and (4), 3-109(1) and 3-110). The changes introduce more stringent requirements to verify a client’s identity, provide more options for how to confirm a client’s identity, and require lawyers in financial transactions to obtain additional information about a client’s source of funds, as well as periodic monitoring and recording professional business relationships with clients. More information and educational resources will be published before the end of the year.

April 2019
The Law Society may publish limitations and conditions placed on a lawyer who is subject to an interim order under Rule 3-10 (Rules 2-53(7), 3-10(3) to (11), 4-50(4) and 9-11(9)); Quebec lawyers may transfer to British Columbia under the terms of the National Mobility Agreement 2013, notwithstanding that a reciprocal provision for BC lawyers has not been finalized (Rules 2-80(4), 2-81(1) and 3-43(3)).

March 2019
The rules governing discipline pre-hearing conferences are expanded to facilitate more effective and efficient case management (Rule 4-38(8) to (11)).

November and December 2018
Fees are updated for 2019 (Schedules 1, 2 and 3).

September 2018
New Rule 2-27.1 governs information-sharing with other law societies in compliance with the National Discipline Standards, and consolidates and expands on existing provisions (Rules 2-24(1) and (2), 2-27.1, 2-53(1) and (3), 3-3(2), 3-23(2.2), 4-8(2), 4-46(4) and (5), 9-9(2) and 9-19(2)); in most cases, credentials hearing decisions will now be published anonymously (Rules 2-103 and 2-104); the experience needed to qualify as a CPD mentor mirrors the qualifying period to be a principal to an articled student (Rule 3-30)(2)).

June 2018
The Complainants' Review Committee and Practice Standards Committee are authorized to refer matters to the Executive Director for further investigation (Rules 3-14(5) and 3-17(6); a rule reference is corrected, effective July 1, 2018 (Rule 3-64(4)).

May 2018
The Executive Director, rather than the Discipline Committee, now has the discretion to waive the fee for late filing of trust account where special circumstances exist (Rules 2-85(7), 3-80(4) and 5-14).

April 2018

  • Substantive rule amendments implement the regulation of law firms by the Law Society, including the appointment of designated representatives, information sharing between firms and the Society and the self-assessment process; also, a number of consequential amendments bring the rules into alignment with the Legal Profession Act provisions that were proclaimed on April 2, 2018 (definitions of "complainant," "complaint," "conduct unbecoming the profession," "disciplinary record," "discipline violation," "law firm" or "firm" and "trust funds" and Rules 2-12.1 to 2-12.5, 3-1, 3-2, 3-3(4.1), 3.5(9), 3-23(2.1), 3-51(2), 3-53, 3-88, 4-1(1), (2) and (4), 4-4(1), 4-7, 4-8(4.1), 4-10(2), 4-12(1), 4-13(6), 4-15(3), 4-16, 4-38(7), 4-44(1), 5-1(2), 5-5(1), 9-11(1) and Schedule 1, L., 4 and 5.
  • New Rule 1-44.1 clarifies that functions nominally assigned to the Executive Director may be performed by individuals employed or retained by the Law Society in the course of their employment or retainer; the definition of “Executive Director” is consequently rescinded.
  • Two minor past errors are corrected (Rules 2-104(7) and 5-12(4) and (5)).

December 2017
Rules are amended, effective July 1, 2018, to provide regulations to allow lawyers to transfer trust funds electronically using an online banking platform (Rules 3-64 (4) and (6) to (8), 3-64.1, 3-64.2, 3-65 (1), (1.1) and (2) and 3-66 (2)); the requirement that lawyers have at least seven years of call to the bar before qualifying to be a candidate in a Bencher election is removed (Rule 1-22 (1)).

October 2017
A minor amendment reflects the current in-house nature of the Equity Ombudsperson program (Rule 1 definition of "Ombudsperson"); temporary articled students are restricted from making certain appearances in  Supreme Court, but not Provincial Court (Rule 2-71(2)); fees are updated for 2018 (Schedule 1).

September 2017
Students who enrol in the admission program after January 1, 2018 are required to take the practice management course, formerly called the small firm practice course (Rule 1 definition of “practice management course” and Rules 2-76, 3-26 and 3-28 heading and (1)); former judges and masters of any province returning to practice in BC are bound by similar restrictions, regardless of whether the return to practice is by reinstatement, transfer or first-time application for admission in BC (Rule 2-87 heading, (1) and (7)); when using the electronic filing system of the land title office, a lawyer must not disclose the lawyer's password or permit any other person, including an employee, to use the password or affix the lawyer's e-signature (Rule 3-96.1); minor text and style changes are made for consistency (Rule 3-64(8)).

May 2017
The Rules are amended to give effect to the resolution passed at the October 2016 annual general meeting, which authorized the Benchers to provide for online voting at general meetings. Members attending in person or by telephone will continue to have full speaking rights, but there is currently no technology to make that possible by way of the internet (Rules 1-9(1), (1.1) to (1.3), (5), (6.1) and (7) and 1-13(1.1) and (15.1)); the qualifications required to act as a principal to an articled student have been amended, including reducing the period of qualification from 7 of the previous 10 years to 5 of the previous 6 years, including prorated credit for part-time practice (Rule 2-57(1), (1.1), (2) and (2.1)).

April 2017
The Rules are amended to ensure compliance with section 30 of the Legal Profession Act, which requires lawyers to maintain trust protection insurance as well as professional liability insurance. Also, the language in the Rules is made consistent with that in the Act (Rules 2-16(3) and (6), 2-19(3), 2-22(3), 2-32, 2-40(2), 2-49(1), 2-77(1), 2-79(1), 2-82(1), 2-117(1), 3-39 heading and (3), 3-39.1, 3-43 heading, 3-44(1) and (2), and 3-46(1) to (3) and (5)).

March 2017
The discretion to waive the fee for former lawyers or judges reinstating as retired members for the purpose of doing pro bono legal work has been transferred from the Credentials Committee to the Executive Director, to make the process more efficient (Rule 2-85(3)); a reference to the BC Code has been corrected (Rule 3-34).

January 2017
Contact information that members must provide to the Law Society is expanded to include telephone numbers and email addresses (Rules 2-9, 2-10 and 2-11); to prevent the risk of breaching undertakings of confidentiality to the Crown, lawyers are no longer required to disclose certain information when reporting criminal charges to the Law Society (Rule 3-97).  

June 2016
Some functions have been re-assigned from the Executive Director to the President, and the process for pre-hearing applications and motions is streamlined (Rules 2-91, 2-94(1) to (3), 2-95(1) and (2), 2-98(1) and (2), 2-101(5), 2-102(3), 4-21(1), 4-22(1), (3) and (4), 4-32(1) and (2), 4-35(1), (2) and (5), 4-36(1) to (3), 4-37(1) and (2), 4-38(2) and (3), 4-40(1), (2), (4) and (6), 4-43(3), 4-44(4), 5-12(1) and (3), 5-19(1), (2), (5) and (6), 5-24.1(1), (4) and (5), 5-24.2, 5-25(2) and (4), 5-26(1) and (2), 5-27(4), 5-28(1) and (2) and 10-1(4.1));
Funds that are fiduciary property may be held in a trust account, provided that the trust accounting rules are followed (Rules 3-55(6), 3-60(4) and 3-61(3)). 

May 2016
The party initiating a review of a hearing decision is responsible for producing the record on which the review is based, and the procedure for doing so is set out in a new rule (Rules 5-15(3), 5-24.1 and 5-25(9)).

April 2016
The rules governing the adjournment of credentials and review hearings are amended to allow a panel or the president to adjourn a hearing generally (Rules 2-96(6), 2-98(5)), 5-25(9) and 5-26(5)); a lawyer may be required to repay the Law Society for certain amounts paid under the insurance program on the lawyer's behalf (Rule 3-44(1)).  

March 2016
Procedural changes are made to the rules covering hearings and reviews, including that the chair of a hearing panel or a review board may be a lawyer who is not currently a Bencher (Rules 5-2(2), (3), (5) and (5.1), 5-3(2), 5-4(1), 5-16(4) and 5-18(2)). 

December 2015
electronic voting is permitted in Bencher elections and referenda (Rules 1-5(6), 1-6(4) and (6), 1-25(1), (1.1), (1.2) and (2), 1-27(1) to (4), 1-27.1, 1-29, 1-31(1) and (4), 1-32, 1-36(1), 1-37, 1-40(2) and 1-43); notices of general meetings may be distributed electronically and appointed Benchers may attend and speak as of right at general meetings (Rules 1-8(5) and (7), 1-9(2), 1-11(5) and (6) and 1-13(1) and (2)). 

October 2015
In May, the Benchers amended Rule 1-10(2) to recognize the new Chartered Professional Accountant designation; the amendment was approved by the members at the October 14 AGM; fees are updated for 2016 (Schedules 1, 2 and 3).

September 2015
Minor corrections are made to the new Law Society Rules 2015 (Rules 2-115(1), 3-66(3) and 5-12(4)).

May 2015
Amendments are made consequential to proclamation of Part 5 of the Chartered Professional Accountants Act, SBC 2015, c. 1 on June 24, 2015 (definition of "qualified CPA" and Rules 3-81(5), 3-82(1) and 3-104(4)).