Non-lawyers providing legal services in BC? And being regulated by the law society? Have your say NOW!

Remember my past post on deregulation of legal services in the UK? Well, as you know, in Canada we are no where near legal services being provided by a local Co-op...but the discussion about deregulation is underway. The Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC)'s Legal Service Provider Task Force, is currently considering some issues which could have significant impact on the way legal services are provided in the future.

A notice on the LSBC website explains that the Task Force has been "exploring whether a single model regulator of legal services is desirable and, if it is desirable, which legal service providers should be regulated, and whether it is the Law Society that should take on that regulatory function."

The Task Force published an interim report in July 2013, which focuses on two main mandates items.

Mandate item 4: "Consider and report on whether it is in the public interest that non-lawyer legal service providers be regulated and if so, whether it is in the public interest that the Law Society should be that regulator."

While the Task Force is still seeking comments and engaging in consultations on this issue, the tone of their interim report suggests that the Task Force is of the preliminary view that regulation of all legal service providers by the LSBC may be in the public interest. For example the report states at p. 10:

"29. The Task Force considered that a single regulator, with a clear public interest mandate, may be able to play a role in educating the public as to the roles of legal service providers and the justice system, thereby improving public confidence in the administration of justice."

Mandate item 5: "Consider and report on whether the recognition and regulation of non-lawyer legal service providers would improve access to law-related services for the public."

The Task Force considered some of the vast amounts of research out there that demonstrates that lawyers alone are failing to provide meaningful access to justice to Canadians. The report notes the tension between deregulation efforts that may increase access and maintaining sufficient regulation to provide the public with "assurances that services are provided by competent and ethical professionals" (p.12).

The report comments on some of the possible benefits and disadvantages of a single regulator of all legal service providers (pp. 14 and 15). The main benefits included those relating to clarity, uniformity, and increased bargaining power...and disadvantages included possible stifling of innovation and the creation of additional obstacles that other legal service providers would have to overcome in order to achieve governmental reform, to, for example, expand the scope of their practice.

All of these are REAL issues, and are much more complex than can be addressed in this single post. But they are important issues and they do need to be addressed. And it would be awesome if they were addressed with consideration of the views of young lawyers...

speak-out-courage-change

So what do you think? Should non-lawyer legal service providers be regulated?And if so, should the Law Society be the one to do it? 

What degree and form of regulation is necessary to protect the public interest and at the same time foster increased access to justice?

Would regulation of alternative legal service providers by LSBC strike the right balance?

Or is the public interest better served with less regulation...or a multiple regulator approach?

Would a single regulator approach unduly restrict alternative services providers' ability to meaningfully increase access?

Can regulation foster increased access to justice or does it hinder it, by, for example, preventing non-lawyer legal services providers from providing legal services in alternative, innovative ways?

These are all IMPORTANT questions, which I invite you to consider. The results of this task force and the Law Society's deliberations will have implications on the future of our profession and therefore are immensely important for all young lawyers to consider...and to speak out on.

So put some real thought into it and send your comments in to the Task Force here. Or get in touch with LSBC staff lawyer Doug Munro at dmunro@lsbc.org or  604.605.5313.

If you want to learn a bit more, or prefer to express your views in person, consider attending one of the upcoming discussion consultation meetings. Here is the relevant info:

Vancouver: September 9, 2013, 4 – 6 pm, Waddington Room, Fairmont Hotel, 900 West Georgia Street, Vancouver

Victoria: September 16, 2013, 4 – 6 pm, South Pender Island Room, Hotel Grand Pacific, 463 Belleville Street, Victoria

Prince George: September 18, 2013, 4 – 6 pm, Hedrick Room, Coast Inn of the North, 770 Brunswick Street, Prince George

You can register to attend a consultation meeting here.

These decisions will affect us and if we do not speak out, no one will know our views. So I'm calling out to all young lawyers to engage in this discussion.

The future of this profession is ours. Why not help create it? 

road to change

Be a driver, not a back seat passenger.

xo,

Danielle

Image credits 1, 2