One of the important ways we serve British Columbia lawyers here at CLEBC is by keeping them informed about changes in the law, both large and small. We are always alert for information about new legislation. What’s happening and when? Our legal editors and program lawyers have wide networks throughout the legal profession so we can know very early whether changes are in the wind. This information is critically important to our work.
If a significant new legislative regime is being considered, our BC government tends to recruit an advisory committee to provide input on the new statute, rules, or regulations. The lawyers who serve on those committees are usually the same volunteers who author chapters or present courses for CLEBC. These committee members are often under an obligation of strict confidentiality about their work; however, they are allowed to disclose that a committee exists and the name of the statute under review. They might also mention that the revisions planned are extensive or mere housekeeping. (Or at least, that’s as much as they tell us!) That’s enough information for us, though, to make our plans.
Over the years we’ve learned that government can be optimistic about the timing for implementation. In almost every case, planned changes take much longer than expected.
For example, in the mid-1990s, we heard that a new company law statute was under development. We had long had an idea that BC needed a company law practice manual, but we didn’t want to undertake a significant effort on the eve of an entirely new statute. So we postponed our plans for a new manual. And then we waited … and waited … and waited some more.
Eventually we realized that the government and its advising committee were on the eternity plan (and I suspect that the committee was thoroughly enjoying its deliberations). I persuaded a few of the key players (most notably, the late John Lundell) to put the work into creating a new manual. As it turned out, we published the BC Company Law Practice Manual in 1997. We didn’t publish a second edition until 2003 … just before the new Business Corporations Act came into force.
When sweeping new legislation is enacted, not only do we need to incorporate all the changes into our existing publications, but we also need to provide a resource to explain exactly what has changed. To do so, we’ve published transition guides that compare the old and new statutory regimes, and provide as much discussion and explanation as we can gather about the reasons behind the new statute. Our latest effort of this type is the Family Law Act Transition Guide.
The new Family Law Act was introduced into the legislature in the fall of 2011, but was not brought into force until 18 months later. Although this lead-up gave the legal profession some time to educate itself about changes under the Act, it was not until June 2012 that the in-force date of the legislation was announced. Hearing this news, we quickly put our plans together to publish the Family Law Act Transition Guide. To create the content, we worked closely with the British Columbia Ministry of Justice and a group of well-respected family law lawyers. Many of these authors were also members of the government’s Family Law Act advisory committee.
Our upcoming legislative change is the new Wills, Estates, and Succession Act, now scheduled to come into force in March 2014. As with the Business Corporations Act, this new statute has had a lengthy gestation period. When we published a WESA Transition Guide in the fall of 2010, we anticipated that the new statute would come into effect within months. However, the government undertook numerous changes to the new act, thereby delaying the in-force date. And in the meantime, BC’s new Family Law Act leapfrogged ahead of WESA in the government’s legislative calendar. This fall we’ll publish an update to our WESA Transition Guide with updated information about the new statute and regulations.
Even while we’re tracking new legislation, we still work to update all our other publications as needed. About half are updated annually; the other half are biennial updates. We know that this routine work is often as important to our readers as updates about major statutory changes.