VICTORIA - The Law Society of British Columbia would have stronger regulatory powers under amendments to the Legal Profession Act introduced today by Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond.
This legislation had been requested by the society, which wanted more authority to investigate disputes and to act on concerns about a lawyer's dealings with their clients.
If passed, the changes will protect the public interest by expanding the Law Society's ability to suspend or disbar lawyers guilty of serious criminal offences. Maximum fines for lawyers found guilty of misconduct would increase to $50,000 from $20,000. The society would also be able to make rules to protect private electronic records during investigations of lawyers' conduct.
Among other changes:
- Where necessary to protect the public, the society would be able to impose an emergency suspension or practice conditions or require a lawyer to undergo a medical examination.
- The legislation would clarify that lawyers are entitled to legal counsel throughout disciplinary hearings, investigations or practice reviews and require the Law Society's approval before resigning from the society in the midst of these procedures.
- Law firms would be regulated directly by the society, enabling the society to deal with a greater range of concerns, such as a firm's accounting policies or supervisory practices for articling students.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond -
"The public needs to be confident that lawyers are acting in their best interests and that if they have serious, justifiable concerns about a lawyer's conduct, the Law Society will investigate."
"These changes give the society more authority to take measures to protect the public on those occasions when substantiated complaints arise."
Bruce LeRose, QC, president, Law Society of British Columbia -
"The Law Society appreciates the government introducing legislation that modernizes the Legal Profession Act and allows us to more effectively regulate and protect the public interest in the delivery of legal services in British Columbia."
- The Law Society regulates B.C.'s more than 10,000 licensed, practising lawyers to ensure they act with independence, integrity and honour.
- The society establishes standards for education, professional responsibility and competence and hears complaints about conduct or competency.
- Of around 1,200 complaints received annually, 85 per cent are closed as being capable of being resolved, unproven, having no legal merit or not warranting further action. Thirteen per cent are referred to a disciplinary committee to assess and two per cent are subject to a review of the lawyer's competence.
Standards of conduct for B.C. lawyers: www.lawsociety.bc.ca/page.cfm?cid=383&t=Professional-Conduct-Manual
To make a complaint about a lawyer, go to: www.lawsociety.bc.ca/page.cfm?cid=25&t=Complaints
Justice reform: www.justicebc.ca
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice
250 889-5945 (cell)