Day: January 17, 2019

Discover the New Law Society Website – Quicklinks Overview

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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.