More support for Sole Practitioners and Small Firms
The Working Group on Sole Practitioner and Small Firm Lawyers released a report that details the actions that have been taken by the Law Society, the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) and the County and District Law Presidents' Association (CDLPA) to expand support for sole and small firm lawyers. The comprehensive list of completed and planned activities illustrates that ongoing support is a top priority for all three organizations.
The working group report lists each organization's activities in reference to the recommendations of the 2005 Final Report of the Sole Practitioner and Small Firm Task Force.
The working group was established in 2006 to continue work on issues related to sole practitioners and small firms, based on the task force report's recommendations. The working group is made up of two benchers, two representatives of the OBA and two representatives of CDLPA.
Each of the participating organizations brought their unique perspective on the recommendations. The coordination of efforts has resulted in the greatest benefit to sole and small firm practitioners.
The Final Report of the Sole Practitioner and Small Firm Task Force was approved by Convocation in March 2006.
New Rules of Practice and Procedure for Hearing Panels
New Rules of Practice and Procedure for Hearing Panels will improve and clarify the Law Society hearing process.
The Tribunals Committee presented the new rules to Convocation for approval following a two phase consultation with the profession. In the first phase representatives of the defence bar who frequently appear as counsel before Hearing Panels were consulted. In the second phase the profession as a whole was consulted.
The new rules continue the Law Society's commitment to an open and transparent adjudicative process. They address limitations with the previous rules while preserving effective procedures. They are flexible and comprehensive, avoiding the need for guidelines or practice directives and integrating the Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators (SOAR) provisions where applicable.
The new rules will come into effect July 1, 2009 and will apply to proceedings that begin on or after that date. The current rules will continue to apply to other proceedings.
The Tribunals Committee will now develop new Appeal Panel Rules for Convocation's consideration at a future date.
Governance Task Force begins second phase of consultation
The Governance Task Force will hold approximately ten meetings with small groups of lawyers and paralegals in four locations in Ontario. Meetings will be arranged in Toronto with leaders of legal organizations. Lawyers and paralegals invited to the meetings will include those in a variety of practice areas in sole practices and small to large firms, corporate counsel and academics. The meetings will be scheduled during the spring of 2009.
This consultation follows a governance workshop with benchers in November 2008. Benchers identified several governance issues that will form the basis for the discussions. Convocation approved the two part consultation at its September 2008 meeting.
The Task Force will report the results of the consultation to Convocation together with its recommendations on whether changes to governance at the Law Society should be considered.
Foreign Legal Consultant requirements revised
Convocation revised the provisions for Foreign Legal Consultants (FLCs). FLCs are no longer required to have defalcation insurance or to be residents of Ontario.
The removal of the residency requirement is consistent with the deletion of the residency requirement for lawyers and paralegals from the Law Society Act in 2007.
The defalcation coverage requirement proved to be a barrier to individual lawyers seeking to become FLCs in Ontario. Since FLCs are prohibited from receiving or handling money or other property in trust, the risk of defalcation among FLCs is low.
Lawyers licensed in foreign jurisdictions may apply to the Law Society for a Foreign Legal Consultant permit that allows them to provide advice on the law of a foreign jurisdiction in Ontario. There are a number of criteria that must be met including membership in good standing in the foreign jurisdiction. Amendments to By-Law 14 reflecting the revised requirements will be brought to a future Convocation for approval.
See the Professional Development and Competence Committee Report for more information.
Policy for investigations of benchers, staff and paralegal members of the Paralegal Standing Committee amended
A policy for the investigation of complaints against lawyer and paralegal benchers, lawyer and paralegal Law Society staff and paralegal members of the Paralegal Standing Committee was amended at February Convocation. The amendments clarify the application of the policy if the Treasurer, CEO, or Director of Professional Regulation is the subject of a complaint. The policy was first approved at January 2009 Convocation.
For more information, see the Professional Regulation Committee report .
Diana Miles was appointed as the Law Society's representative on the CanLII Board of Directors for a term of three years.