Muted Modernization for the Regulation of BC Legal Practitioners

The move in British Columbia to modernize the regulation of legal practitioners has run into significant opposition by advocates for the independence of legal professionals, without interference from government, as a fundamental tenet of the justice system. As a result, the government has conceded that some of the regulatory reforms imposed on other professions will not be fully applied to legal practitioners.

In its most recent update on the reform initiative, the government has stated the following muted intentions:

  • The majority of the Board will be lawyers, even as notaries and paralegals are brought within a single regulator.
  • The majority of the Board will be elected from the profession. However, the Board will be able to appoint a minority of licensees to its Board through a competency-based process.
  • The Board will be larger than for most other professions, with 17 persons.
  • Only three of the 17 Board members will be publicly appointed non-licensees, who will also be appointed through a competency-based process and who will act independently of the government once appointed.
  • The government will not retain the right to veto rules made by the Board.
  • There will not be an independent supervisor of the regulator. However, there will be future independent reviews of the effectiveness of the regulator, especially about facilitating access to legal services and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

However, significant reforms will still occur including, in addition to a single regulator, the following:

  • The core responsibilities of the regulator will be set out in statute. These will include the regulation of the practice of the profession and establishing standards of practice in the public interest. In addition, the regulator will have a mandate to facilitate access to legal services and to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
  • There must be a minimum of two Indigenous members of the Board. In addition, there will be an Indigenous Council as part of the regulator’s governance structure.
  • The mandate of the Board will be strategic oversight.
  • Regulated individuals will be referred to as licensees, not members. There will be no requirement to hold annual meetings of licensees, licensees will not be able to forward resolutions purporting to direct the actions of the Board, and licensees will not have the authority to approve or reject rules developed by the Board.

Regulators across the country will monitor these reforms with interest.

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