Practice of Law

Paper Client Files v. Digital Client Files: Digital File Management (Practice Tips)

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Ronni Nordal
Bencher, Law Society of Saskatchewan

The Law Society regularly receives enquiries from lawyers regarding the rules relating to the storage, composition, and destruction of client files.  Increasingly, these enquiries include questions relating to the proper use of electronic, or “paperless” filing systems.  Law Society Practice Advisors have indicated that they are seeing a significant increase in attempts by practitioners to run “paperless”, or fully electronic filing systems.  The Rules of the Law Society of Saskatchewan do not dictate either that client files need to be in paper format, or that lawyers are entitled to maintain digital (electronic) client files.  The Rules apply in the same fashion, regardless of the format of a client file. A lawyer must be in a position to produce a complete file to the Law Society or to a Practice Advisor of the Law Society, on demand.

For some, the concept of a digital client file is unnerving, but with the right digital file system, there are many advantages including advanced search capabilities and lack of the need for physical file storage space.  Just as ‘brads’ are an important part of keeping correspondence on a paper client file in chronological order, digital file naming conventions are key for filing correspondence chronologically in a digital client file.

In order to assist members who are maintaining digital client files, or who are thinking about starting a digital practice, the Law Society’s Professional Standards Committee formed a small sub-committee consisting of lawyers Colin Clackson, Q.C., Andrew Mason and Riley Potter, together with Benchers, Ronni Nordal and David Rusnak, Q.C.

Colin, Andrew and Riley all maintain electronic client files, and each has their own way of managing files.  It became clear quite quickly that, just as is the case with paper client files, there are a number of different ways a proper client file can be maintained, and each member will need to determine what works best for him/her.  After sharing ideas and much discussion, the Committee has developed a document entitled “Practice Tips for Maintaining a Digital Practice”, for the assistance of the membership.

We hope these Practice Tips will assist members in setting up and maintaining a proper digital client file system.   To further assist, a webinar will be presented in March 2018 featuring Law Society of Saskatchewan Practice Advisor, Jeffrey Scott, Q.C., and Sub-Committee member, Colin Clackson, Q.C.  Jeff will review the expectations of the Practice Advisors when requesting to review a client file (whether paper or electronic) and some of the pitfalls members have fallen into when not properly maintaining client files.  Colin will then show examples of a digital law practice and client files, that will make even those members who still only have a ‘flip phone’ realize that it truly is possible to have digital client files and a digital law practice. For more information about the upcoming webinar, please visit the Continuing Professional Development page.

Resources to Help Avoid Missed Limitation Periods

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From Saskatchewan Lawyers’ Insurance Association Inc.

SLIA would like to remind members that one of the most common insurance claims areas is missed limitation periods. Please see the following resources for tips and assistance to help avoid this common mistake:

  • Saskatchewan Limitations Manual

The online version of the Saskatchewan Limitations Manual contains an alphabetical list of all statutes with limitation periods, including The Limitations Act, S.S. 2004, c. L-16.1 and relevant case law annotations.  On each statute name listed, a link to the text of the statute as it appears on CanLII allows the user to read the entire act or to search for the specific section within the statute.

  • Beat the Clock – Law Society of BC

Beat the Clock is a special risk management publication of the Lawyers Insurance Fund from the Law Society of BC. Lawyers can prevent missed deadlines by adopting the simple practices and procedures laid out in this guide. Covering over 70 risk management tips to help you prevent missed deadlines, this guide includes:

    • Four sections that address each of the main causes of missed deadlines in depth;
    • Examples of “what went wrong” from actual claim reports to the Lawyers Insurance Fund;
    • Advice from the practising lawyers who work at the Lawyers Insurance Fund on how you can avoid missed deadlines; and
    • Comments and advice from lawyers who have dealt with missed deadlines themselves, and are willing to share their experiences.

Please see the SLIA website for more information about these and other helpful resources.

Upcoming Law Firm Practice Management Pilot Project

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By Barbra Bailey, Policy Counsel
Law Society of Saskatchewan

The Law Society of Saskatchewan, in collaboration with the Law Societies of Alberta and Manitoba, has been exploring a new model of regulating legal services in a manner that is risk-focused, proactive and with a greater focus on law firms as a whole, rather than a sole focus on individual lawyers. The new approach is designed 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 service delivery. The feedback from the membership regarding this regulatory model has been positive and we are now seeking to test and enhance this new approach through a pilot project.  This will involve a randomly selected, geographically proportionate sample of 25 law firms of varying sizes and sole practitioners across the province.

Next month, Benchers of the Law Society will begin contacting firms to ask them to participate in the Prairie Law Societies’ Law Firm Practice Management pilot project.  Participation is voluntary but we hope you will agree to participate as your input will be invaluable to the Law Society’s goal of developing a more modern and proactive approach to regulation.  We believe that participation in the pilot project will also help your firm to mitigate risk and to enhance practice management, firm culture and overall delivery of legal services and client satisfaction.

Please stay tuned for further updates.

Signing the Law Society Roll Book

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John Diefenbaker’s signature in the Law Society Roll Book, signed June 30, 1919
Roll Book Spine with Embossed Title

It is that time of the year again! The students who have completed the Bar Admissions Program will be eligible for admission as lawyers. Those admitted will be required to sign the roll at the Law Society. The Law Society of the North-West Territories started in 1898 with 186 members on the roll. The Law Society of Saskatchewan continued to use this roll until 1911 when a new parchment roll book was procured. The first name entered in the parchment roll is Amédée Emmanuel Forget, the last Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories and the first Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Saskatchewan. The benchers hoped that every barrister and solicitor in the province would come to sign the roll. It remained open for one year after which the secretary was instructed to “cause the names of any members who have not signed to be engrossed on the roll in distinctive characters not liable to be mistaken for autograph signatures.” As a result, some early names appear in pencil in the roll. In December 1912, the benchers passed a resolution to create a rule making it a requirement of admission to actually sign the roll.

Signing Roll – Rule amended

Moved by Mr. Acheson seconded by Mr. Black that no one be admitted as barrister and solicitor until he actually signs the roll; and that the declaration of nonpractise required by the Rules be taken at the time of signing the roll and that the rules be amended accordingly. Carried Unanimously.

Law Society Benchers Meeting Minutes, December 1912
Law Society Benchers Meeting Minutes, December 1912

The same 1911 roll is still in use today. It has space for 13,000 signatures. Students can sign the roll in ballpoint pen or a dip pen and ink.

Legal Services Task Team

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By Barbra Bailey, Policy Counsel
Law Society of Saskatchewan

A Task Team has been appointed to examine the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services to Saskatchewan residents. The Team will consider a wide range of possible approaches and varying degrees of service delivery and make recommendations about the appropriate role, if any, of non-lawyers in the provision of legal services.

The Task Team is a joint project by the Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan. For more information, please see this News Release, dated May 5, 2017.

New Criminal Practice Directive

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From the Court of Queen’s Bench:

The Court of Queen’s Bench has issued a new Criminal Practice Directive #6  effective May 1, 2017 concerning how summary conviction and absolute jurisdiction offences will be dealt with in the Court of Queen’s Bench. The new practice directive can be found on the Court’s website.

New Criminal Practice Directives Effective April 1

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From the Court of Queen’s Bench

The Court of Queen’s Bench has updated Practice Directive CRIM–PD#1 concerning the scheduling of pre-trial conferences to reflect that criminal pre-trials will also be conducted in the judicial centres of Estevan, Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Yorkton.  The updated practice directive can be found on the Court’s webpage here.

The Court of Queen’s Bench has issued three new criminal practice directives effective April 1, 2017:

CRIM-PD#3 concerns the safe handling of large or sensitive exhibits;

CRIM-PD#4 sets out a new process and application forms for obtaining a subpoena in a criminal matter; and

CRIM-PD#5 describes which exhibits filed in a criminal matter may be returned after the expiry of the appeal period, and which exhibits will be retained by the Court.

They can be found on the Court’s webpage here.