Discover the New Law Society Website – Initiatives

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The Initiatives section is a new feature of the Law Society website. The Law Society dedicates itself to an in-depth exploration of some of the major issues affecting the legal system in Saskatchewan, and professional regulation nationally and internationally. The Law Society collaborates with and consults several stakeholders to support this work in accordance with our strategic plan. We are currently delivering major initiatives in several areas:

• Access to Justice

o Alternative Legal Service Providers – The Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan jointly undertook a project to explore the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services.

o Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI) – To address the growing public need for legal information, the Law Society’s Legal Resources department and several other legal information providers launched a project to improve access to legal information for Saskatchewan residents through the public library system

Truth and Reconciliation – Recognizing the importance of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and the advancement of reconciliation, the Law Society of Saskatchewan has committed to responding to Call to Action #27 from the Calls to Action Report. We have developed several Continuing Professional Development programs to offer cultural competency training and will continue to develop further resources.

Equity – The Equity Office at the Law Society of Saskatchewan is committed to both eliminating discrimination and harassment and promoting equity in the legal profession. Through our confidential email and toll-free phone line, we assist individual lawyers, articling students and support staff who ask for help in resolving complaints of discrimination or harassment by listening to complaints, assessing the nature of the complaint, and informing the individual about potential measures for dealing with the complaint. When resolution is required, complaints will be referred to an independent mediator. The Equity Office has also developed policies to implement equity in the workplace.

Saskatchewan Justicia Project – The Justicia Project was developed in Ontario by the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2008 as a partnership between the law society and law firms to work collaboratively to share best practices, develop resources and adopt proactive programs to support the retention and advancement of female lawyers in private practice. The ultimate goal of the Justicia Project is to create better work arrangements for both lawyers and firms. The Saskatchewan Justicia Project was introduced in November of 2014.

Innovating Regulation – The practice of law and the public’s demands for legal services are changing. Driven in part by new technologies, new business models and access to justice concerns, delivery and regulation of legal services has begun evolving around the world. In response, the Law Societies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been examining a spectrum of regulatory tools that includes entity regulation, compliance-based regulation and alternative business structures to determine which, if any, might be effective in our jurisdictions. The Prairie Law Societies determined that proactive regulation of law firms in addition to regulation of individual lawyers was appropriate and has been working towards a regulatory framework that incorporates that approach.

In Saskatchewan, The Legal Profession Act, 1990 was amended in 2014 to include firms as members of the Law Society. Under the Act, one of the duties of the Law Society is to protect the public by assuring the integrity, knowledge, skill, proficiency and competence of members. A proactive approach would allow both law firms and the Law Society to be more responsive to a diverse and profoundly changing environment, to enhance the quality of legal services, to encourage ethical legal practice and to foster innovation in legal services.

To determine the most meaningful way to engage with law firms though proactive regulation, the Prairie Law Societies conducted a pilot project in 2017 to test a new resource which helps firms assess the robustness of their practice management systems and firm culture. The Law Firm Practice Management Assessment Tool (the “Assessment Tool”) helps a firm recognize its strengths and provides “things to consider” in areas where opportunities for improvement have been identified. These include examples of how a law firm might put practices, policies or procedures into place, along with links to further resources that law firms can use in addressing practice management concerns.

Discover the New Law Society Website – About Us

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The About Us section of the website contains foundational information about the Law Society, including:

For a general overview of the Law Society, please see our new informational video:

 

Discover the New Law Society Website – Quicklinks Overview

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quicklinks

As we mentioned in our post yesterday, three categories of Quicklinks have been added to the main page of the new Law Society website: Public, Lawyers & Students, and Resources and Support. We believe that these Quicklinks should eliminate approximately 80% of the site searches that occurred on the old site. In today’s post, we’d like to highlight specifically what can be found in this new section.

The Public Quicklinks include the following commonly visited pages and common concerns:

  • What does the Law Society do? – An overview of the Law Society with information concerning our Mission, Vision, Values, and Direction, Executive and Benchers (Board), and Annual Reports. See also the new video overview we recently created.
  • Find a Lawyer – The Find a Lawyer directory allows lawyers to be searched by firm/organization, city or first or last name. A lawyer’s contact information is available via this service which allows you to contact lawyers directly. The Find a Lawyer directory includes the ability to search for a lawyer by practice area. This page also includes information for the public if they are unable to afford a lawyer.
  • Understanding Lawyers’ Fees –Information on billing practices and fees, and tips for keeping legal costs down.
  • Making a Complaint Against a Lawyer – General information for the public if they believe they have a complaint and information on the Law Society Complaints Process.
  • Complaints Outcomes – The possible courses of action that may be followed if a matter against a lawyer raises valid concerns.
  • Find Court Forms – The Queen’s Bench Forms in both PDF and Word format.

The Quicklinks for Lawyers & Students include:

  • Update Profile/Report CPD Hours – This links to the Member Profile login page which allows Law Society members to update their member profile or report continuing professional development hours (CPD).
  • Saskatchewan Lawyers’ Insurance Association (SLIA) – SLIA has a new webpage. Please visit the SLIA website for information on liability insurance for members of the Law Society.
  • CPD on Demand – Numerous CPD activities available on demand to allow members to access relevant CPD in a convenient manner. Activities include Recorded Versions and Study Group Resources.
  • Law Society Forms & Fees – Law Society Forms, Trust Account Forms, and Law Society Fees and Assessments.
  • Becoming a Lawyer in Saskatchewan – Information for students, national mobility transfers and international students on becoming a lawyer.
  • Careers & Classifieds – Listing of available law-related careers.

The Quicklinks for Resources & Support include:

  • Member Resource Section – Formerly named the ‘Members’ Section’, this section was renamed to provide clarity for members. This section still includes Westlaw and other legal resources. If you previously had Westlaw or another resource bookmarked, you may need to log in again on the new site.
  • Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) – Providing a free, confidential assistance program for Saskatchewan lawyers, judges, law students and their immediate families.
  • Act, Code and Rules – A direct link to the Legal Professions Act, 1990, the Code of Professional Conduct and Law Society Rules.
  • QB Rules and Forms – The Queen’s Bench Forms in both PDF and Word formats.
  • Resources Search – Simple, one-stop searching for books, e-books and videos from the Law Society Library.
  • News, Media and Publications – Links to popular news sources and resources such as Legal Sourcery, Case Mail, the Limitations Manual, and Annual Reports.
  • External Resources – Links to popular external resources and organizations such as CanLII, Courts of Saskatchewan and the Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA).

Law Society of Saskatchewan Discipline Update: Mervin Phillips

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A penalty decision has been released in relation to the matter of Law Society of Saskatchewan v Phillips. The following allegations were proven in an earlier phase of the hearing process:

1. did fail to be frank and candid with S.H. in relation to the anticipated costs of S.H.’s legal matter;

2. did fail to serve his client, S.H., in a conscientious, diligent and efficient manner as follows:

a) he spent time unnecessarily in connection with issues S.H. had instructed                              him to abandon; and

b) he required S.H. to make unnecessary and excessive personal attendances                             at his office;

3. did charge a fee to S.H. that was not fully disclosed, fair and reasonable.

The following penalty was imposed by the Hearing Committee:

(a) The Member be suspended for a period of thirty days with the period of suspension to commence on a date as agreed between Counsel for the Conduct Investigation Committee and Counsel for the Member but such period of suspension to commence no later than July 1, 2019;

(b) The Member to pay costs in the sum of $13,986.84 to the Law Society of Saskatchewan on or before July 1, 2019 failing which an additional suspension from practice will be imposed until full payment has been made.

For more information on the Law Society of Saskatchewan discipline proceedings, please visit the Hearings, Decisions and Outcomes section of the Law Society of Saskatchewan website.

Update on Law Society Initiatives – December 2018 Convocation

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By Barbra Bailey, Director of Policy

Proactive Regulation of Law Firms

 The environment in which a lawyer practises can play a significant role in determining professional conduct, yet the entities through which lawyers provide services have been largely unregulated.  To address this, The Legal Profession Act, 1990 was amended in 2014 to include firms as members of the Law Society.  According to that Act, one of the duties of the Law Society is to protect the public by assuring the integrity, knowledge, skill, proficiency and competence of members, which implies that the Law Society should be proactive in taking steps to assist the membership to meet those requirements.  With the amendment to the Act, this duty now extends to law firms.

The Law Societies of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba (the “Prairie Law Societies”) have been working together to examine various approaches to regulating law firms (in addition to regulation of individual lawyers) and have determined that a proactive approach would allow both law firms and the Law Society to be more responsive to a diverse and profoundly changing environment, to enhance the quality of legal services, to encourage ethical legal practice and to foster innovation in legal services.  Accordingly, the Prairie Law Societies have been working together to develop a consistent regulatory framework that incorporates that approach across the prairies.

As part of that work, the Prairie Law Societies conducted a pilot project in 2017 to test a new resource aimed at helping firms assess the robustness of their practice management systems and firm culture. The Law Firm Practice Management Assessment Tool (the “Assessment Tool”) helps firms recognize their strengths and provides “things to consider” in areas where opportunities for improvement have been identified.  These include examples of how a law firm might put practices, policies or procedures into place, along with links to further resources that law firms can use to make improvements.  By its design, the Assessment Tool is intended not only as an evaluation mechanism, but also as a convenient source of best practice resources for firms. The content of the Assessment Tool is designed to help firms think about how to best serve their clients, their lawyers and their employees; an exercise that should foster both public protection – in terms of ethical, efficient practice – and good business practices.

The goal of the pilot project was to test the functionality of the Assessment Tool and determine how it could be used in helping firms work with the Law Society to ensure sound practice management systems are in place.  Pilot project participants were identified by randomly selecting firms of various sizes throughout the province, providing a representative sample of Saskatchewan firms.  Those firms were then invited to voluntarily participate in the pilot project. Ultimately, 22 Saskatchewan firms participated. A similar process was followed in Alberta and Manitoba.  Participating firms were asked to designate a representative to be the liaison for the pilot project.  The designated representative’s task was to ensure the firm undertook the self-assessment process, using the Assessment Tool, and report to the Law Society about things that the firm has been doing well and areas identified as needing improvement.

The designated representatives were then asked to complete an evaluation of the Assessment Tool and conduct an exit interview about their experience. Overall, the feedback about the Assessment Tool was positive.  The majority of participants said they thought the Assessment Tool would improve engagement with the Law Society (80%), increase general awareness and education related to the key objectives (84%) and help firms to improve their organizational policies and procedures (81%).  Participants also had the opportunity to comment on any improvements they felt should be made to the Assessment Tool and the process overall.  Much of that feedback focused on tailoring the Assessment Tool to ensure the content was appropriate for the size of the firm and making the process more efficient.  Based on that feedback, the Prairie Law Societies have been working to refine the Assessment Tool and develop an appropriate regulatory framework to guide this process.

The ultimate goal of this initiative is to foster a more collaborative relationship between the Law Society and its members, and to help lawyers and firms manage risk so that the likelihood of conduct leading to a complaint or negligence is minimized.  On December 7, 2018, the Benchers approved a framework for moving forward with law firm regulation that is centred on providing coaching and assistance through the Assessment Tool, but that would also allow the Law Society to address conduct issues at a firm level.  Work will continue in 2019 to develop the details of this framework and further updates will be communicated to the membership as they become available.

 Alternative Legal Service Providers

 In 2017, a Task Team was appointed to explore the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services and develop recommendations for consideration by the Benchers of the Law Society and the Ministry of Justice about the appropriate role, if any, of non-lawyers in the provision of legal services.   In carrying out its mandate, the Legal Services Task Team considered a wide range of possible approaches to address issues related to access to justice, consumer choice and effective regulation, all the while keeping the public interest central to its determinations.  To assist the Task Team’s examination, an extensive consultation with members,  legal organizations and other stakeholders within Saskatchewan’s justice system was conducted.

The Task Team released its final report in August 2018.  The report includes a number of recommendations on how to improve the regulation and provision of legal services in the province.

The recommendations include:

  • providing greater clarity to service providers about what legal services are regulated;
  • expanding the list of exceptions to the prohibition against practicing law to recognize existing service providers;
  • providing the Law Society with licensing authority to allow service providers to practice law with a limited licence on a case-by-case basis;
  • modernizing the legislation regulating legal services to provide more flexibility for future developments in this area;
  • creating guidelines to help educate the public about legal services; and
  • conducting pilot projects to help develop and test the recommendations.

The Benchers of the Law Society of Saskatchewan accepted the recommendations as outlined in the Task Team’s final report on September 14, 2018.  Bill 163, which would amend The Legal Profession Act, 1990 to enable the Law Society to implement the Task Team’s recommendations, was introduced in the Saskatchewan Legislature on December 3, 2018.  Subject to the passing of Bill 163, the Law Society of Saskatchewan will implement the recommendations on an incremental basis, first beginning with pilot projects to better inform the development of the regulatory framework.  The Law Society will continue to consult with the membership and other stakeholders throughout this process.

Discover the New Law Society Website – Overview of the Main Page

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The Law Society launched our new updated website on January 11. Thank you for your patience as we work out a few bugs and for your feedback on future improvements. Please continue to provide feedback to webmaster@lawsociety.sk.ca. We will continue to provide updates as new improvements are implemented.

Over the next several days, we will highlight specific changes and enhancements to better familiarize the users with the new website. Today we focus on the new main page.

The new website not only has a more attractive look but has been reorganized based on feedback and analytics of the old site.

mainpage

The menu is located in the top left corner. The main menu headings have been simplified and are mostly unchanged from the previous website. However, please note the inclusion of a new ‘Initiatives’ page and the switch from ‘Library’ to ‘Legal Resources’.

menu

In the top right corner, please note the new slider feature. This is where information concerning new innovations or projects will be housed.

about

In the middle of the page, three categories of Quicklinks have been incorporated: Public, Lawyers & Students, and Resources & Support. We believe that these Quicklinks should eliminate approximately 80% of the site searches the occurred on the old site.

quicklinks

Below the Quicklinks, we have replaced our news section with the latest posts from our award-winning blog, Legal Sourcery. Previously, items from our news section would be reposted on Legal Sourcery. We have decided simply to post news items on the blog to avoid this reduplication. Posting news items in the blog format also allows users to search for items by keyword or category.

latestblogposts

Beside the Latest Blog Posts is our Events section. This is similar in many respects to the previous website and includes a CPD Activity Calendar and a link to Upcoming Law Society CPD Activities.

events

Stay tuned for a closer look at the changes outlined above and other website enhancements.

NewLi: Legal Information for Saskatchewan’s Newcomers

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By Alan Kilpatrick

The rate of newcomers and immigrants settling in Saskatchewan has skyrocketed in recent years.  The past decade saw more than 100,000 immigrants arrive in the province.  Over ten percent of Saskatchewan’s population, according to the 2016 census, are immigrants.

Newcomers face a variety of unique challenges accessing legal information, understanding their rights, and making sense of Canadian law.  According to this previous blog post on Legal Sourcery, Saskatchewan Chief Justice Richards identified these challenges and encouraged Saskatchewan’s Public Legal Education Association (PLEA) to create a legal information resource specifically for newcomers:

“Saskatchewan, like many other parts of the country, is enjoying a significant influx of new immigrants. Many of them come from countries or places where the law, police, lawyers, government and the courts function much differently than they do in Canada. We need to ensure that all of our citizens understand the basic roles of the legal profession, the police and the courts. As well, they need to understand that these institutions are beyond the reach of corruption and bribery and that they can be used with confidence to vindicate rights, and ensure fairness.”

PLEA, as you may know, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing Saskatchewan citizens with high-quality plain language legal information, education, and publications on common legal topics.  PLEA launched its NewLi website in late 2016 as a “Saskatchewan newcomer’s guide to the law.”  It features accessible information about the law, government, and justice at newli.plea.org.

The Law Society Library team is excited to see more plain language legal information being made available in Saskatchewan as a result of PLEA’s outstanding efforts.  Most Saskatchewanians have a difficult time understanding formal legal language and legalese.  Access to understandable legal information is an access to justice issue.  For example, the British Columbia Provincial Court explains that “by using plain language we … contribute to improved understanding of court processes, legal issues, and decisions. We shorten court lists. And we give people effective, real access to justice.”

We encourage you to check out NewLi and call on Saskatchewan’s legal profession to step up, write plainly, and produce more plain language legal content.

 

Sources

British Columbia Provincial Court. (2017, July 18). Plain language – essential for real access to justice. Retrieved from http://provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-18-07-2017

Gagne, J. (2018, October 21).  Access to justice week highlight – A2J for Newcomers. Retrieved from https://lsslib.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/access-to-justice-week-highlight-a2j-for-newcomers/

Latimer, K. (2017, October 25). Share of new immigrants in Sask. climbs upward: StatsCan.
Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/sask-recent-immigrants-numbers-climb-1.4371285

Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan. (n.d.) NewLi: about. Retrieved from
http://newli.plea.org/about

Shepherd, A. (2018, September 18). Saskatchewan marks 20 years of immigrant nominee program. Retrieved from https://www.cjme.com/2018/09/18/saskatchewan-marks-20-years-of-immigrant-nominee-program/