Law Society of B.C. Approves Major Changes in Regulation of Legal Services

In a news release dated today, the Law Society of British Columbia has announced approval in principal of three recommendations made in the final report of the Legal Service Providers Task Force, to wit:

  • The Law Society and the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia seek to merge regulatory operations.
  • That a program be created by which the legal regulator provide paralegals who have met specific, prescribed education and/or training standards with a certificate that would allow them to be held out as “certified paralegals.”
  • That the Law Society develop a regulatory framework by which other providers of legal services could provide credentialed and regulated legal services in the public interest.

The benchers’ support for the recommendations was unanimous.

Law society regulation of paralegals has precedent in Ontario, but the opening of a door to “other providers of legal services” is a step into new territory for Canada.

This is approval in principle, it should be repeated, and there will need to be considerable work on details before actual regulations can be promulgated.

[Hat tip: Malcolm Mercer via the Canadian Legal Ethics email list]

Retweet information »

Comments

  1. If my feedback paper (47 pages) to the LSBC’s Legal Services Providers Task Force’s Interim Report (July 12, 2013), made any impression, it doesn’t show in their Final Report. The theme of my paper is that unless law societies solve the, “access to justice, unaffordable legal services causing lawyers to be short of clients problem,” they will never have a persuasive answer to the argument that the resulting conflict of interest should bar them from being the regulators of non-lawyer providers of legal services.

    My “Conclusion” states:
    “To argue persuasively that a law society in Canada should be the single regulator of all providers of legal services requires that, that law society solve the problem as to legal services not being available to the population at reasonable cost. Similarly, the progress of the loss of self-regulation by Canada’s law societies can best be resisted by solving that same problem. That problem and its solution have not been entered into the self-regulation debate, which in itself is an argument with which to rebut all that has been written in favour of removing self-regulation. But, law societies will not have that appearance of credibility and reliability necessary to be persuasive in arguing that they should be given the power to regulate the provision of legal services by other professions until they do solve that problem. When they do have that power, their functions will be more necessary to the communities they serve. In turn, their position in the self-regulation debate will be made stronger. But if they take on the power to regulate other professions without having solved the problem, when the government steps in to again make legal services available at reasonable cost, the arguments in favour of removing self-regulation will be much stronger. If law societies cannot regulate their own profession, all the more persuasive is the argument that they cannot regulate any aspect of anyone else’s profession.

    “Decisions concerning: (1) the problem of unaffordable legal services and its consequences to the population; (2) the great power of instant and wide-spread communications provided by the internet, the social media, and the news media in dealing with those consequences; (3) the self-regulation debate; and, (4) all matters as significant as the regulation of the provision of legal services by other professions, should each be considered as to their impact upon the other three. To consider the one without considering the effect upon the others would be similar to a law society considering cost-cutting and reduction of its major programs without considering the resulting effect upon the reputation of that law society, and the resulting law society and legal profession that it will leave to future generations of lawyers.

    “Addendum: the Task Force’s Interim Report states (at p. 11): ‘… cost was not the primary factor that determined whether one chose to seek legal assistance or not.’ I disagree, … it would be a mistake if the law societies do not come to believe that the absence of affordable legal services is not a primary factor and the leading cause as to why the majority of the population has chosen not to use lawyers. If it were not, the great volume of literature that has been written about this “access to justice” problem since 2007 would not have been published, and the disturbingly high and increasing percentages of unrepresented litigants whom judges are warning are clogging their courts, would not be happening.”

    –Ken Chasse, LSUC & LSBC.

  2. In the recent past, LSBC’s references to paralegals have always been to paralegals employed by lawyers (and maybe corporations), not paralegals with their own practices, as in Ontario. Has that changed? Do the new proposals contemplate independent paralegals competing with lawyers within whatever areas of practice are allowed to them (and who decides what that is)?