Law Society of Alberta consultation on model code of conduct amendments

The Law Society of Alberta has extended the deadline of a consultation on an updated model code of conduct to the 30th June.

The amendments to Model Code Rule 6.3 are centred around discrimination and harassment. The draft amendments aim to provide clearer guidance on prohibitions against discrimination, harassment and bullying. This is following feedback from the recent articling survey and the launch of the model Respectful Workplace Policy.

The Society is seeking feedback from a wide range of stakeholders on draft amendments to the Model Code.

See the proposed rules as a PDF, and also see the details of the consultation as a PDF.

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More regulatory responses to COVID-19

Following on from last month’s newsletter, we’ve put together the following list to examine different regulator responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here it is interesting to note the development and changes, as regulators begin to get a grasp on the crisis and develop innovative responses to meet the changing environment. If you have any questions or best practice for the rest of the ICLR community, please do get in touch, and we will be happy to include any of these in the next newsletter.

Illinois has introduced executive order 2020-14, this satisfies notarial requirements that a person must “appear before” a notary public if a two-way audio-video connection is used. It also allows documents to be witnessed through the same technology.


The Law Society of New South Wales has decided to run it’s annual Law Careers Fair as an online event, rather than cancelling it. The event will use zoom to create virtual presentations, with individual video booths and company landing pages replacing exhibitor booths. More information about the event is available here. The Society has also decided to reduce its $410 membership fee to $10, for the 2020-2021 period, allowing members to redirect funds to priority areas during the crisis.


The Law Society of Hong Kong has announced that civil hearing will take place remotely, with all other non-essential court hearings currently adjourned.


The Legal Sector Affinity Group which is made up of all the legal supervisory authorities in the UK, including the Law Society, Bar Council, CILEx, and the Law Society of Scotland, has released an advisory note on preventing money laundering during the crisis. The note discussed the increased risk of money laundering at the current time and what checks can be put in place to mitigate this.


The Council for Licensed Conveyancers in England and Wales is to allow members to defer fee payments, following the near-complete standstill in the UK property market. Members will be given the option to defer paying their practice fee and compensation fund contributions for April, May and June, which can be paid off over the following 4-12 months.


The California State Bar Board of Trustees has written to the California Supreme Court offering options and recommendations for the June First-Year Law Students’ Exam and the July Bar Exam. Full letter available here. Whilst the State Bar of Califonia has put in place emergency measures waiving late payment fees, as well as extending payment deadlines for membership fees and compliance deadlines.


The Law Society of Ontario has cancelled the lawyer licensing examinations and the call to the bar ceremonies due to take place in June. The society has said that alternative summer/autumn examination dates are being explored and that the administrative aspect of the call to the bar process is being undertaken remotely, allowing students to progress with their careers, with a celebration planned later in the year.


The Law Society of Saskatchewan and the Law Society of Alberta have temporarily reduced the articling requirements to a minimum of 8 months, instead of the previous minimum of 12 months, preventing a backlog of articling students due to limits created by coronavirus. Full statements available here and here. The Law Society of Alberta has also introduced changes allowing articling students to work remotely, as well as giving instructions on the supervision students doing this.


The American Bar Association has created a “Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out of the 2020 Pandemic”, which launched a website on the 3rd of April to provide resources and information on the ongoing crisis and how this relates to the law. Statement available here, website available here. The ABA has also backed calls to adopt emergency rules that would allow recent and upcoming law school graduates who cannot take a bar exam because of the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in the limited practice of law, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, these individuals would have until the end of 2021 to practice without passing the bar exam. They hope this would limit the disruption to students careers, and help prevent the widening of the access to justice gap.  Full statement available here.

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Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan to launch new skills course with CPLED

A new skills course designed by the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED) will be launched for articling clerks in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. The course, known as The Practice Readiness Education Program or PREP is designed to equip students with the necessary practical skills to pursue a career in law in the future.

The PREP course is designed to run over nine months, with two intakes per year, and is broken down into four sections:

  • Foundation modules (5 months) – online modules providing a foundation in all CPLED competencies including Lawyer Skills, Practice Management and Professional Ethics and Character. (More detail on the foundation modules is available here)
  • Face-to-face foundation workshops (5 days) – face-to-face workshops that include role-playing in the areas of interviewing, negotiating, and advocacy
  • Virtual firm one-month rotations (3 months) – rotations working in a virtual law firm, testing previous training, tasks will include  interviewing simulated clients within a learning management system, allowing assessors to track progress
  • Face-to-face Capstone (4 days) – the final assessment in the program requires students to participate in a face-to-face simulated matter, which will test all the skills developed throughout the program, combined with a final reflection piece

The program is designed to be taken after students have completed their formal legal education and in conjunction with their articling.

Further details about the PREP are available here and here.

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FLSC launches anti-money laundering and terrorist financing risk advisory for the legal profession

The Federation of Law Societies of Canda (FLSC) has launched a series of risk advisories and risk assessment case studies, designed to help legal professionals adapt to the new anti-money laundering rules. The rule changes are based on an FLSC model rule and have been adopted by Nova Scotia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. The new rules particularly focus on client identification and verification.

 

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Law Society of Alberta piloting part-time membership

The Law Society of Alberta is currently piloting a part-time membership programme, which would be the first of its kind in Canada. In order to be eligible for the part-time membership, a lawyer must be in private practice, work fewer than 20 hours a week, and average fewer than 750 billable hours per year (not including pro bono), gross billings must be lower than $90,000 annually.  Lawyers who meet the criteria would be eligible for reduced membership fees.

The Law Society hopes that the part-time membership programme will increase diversity in the profession, allowing more lawyers to continue working part-time, with research showing this will particularly benefit women in the profession, those who are moving towards leaving the profession and lawyers with health issues. They also feel that increasing the pool of active lawyers whilst managing costs in accordance with time will increase the accessibility of legal work, and therefore access to justice.

Information about the pilot is available here and here.

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University of Alberta professors found governance ‘lodge’

Hadley Friedland was just outside a conference room in Edmonton, speaking over the phone about a presentation on Indigenous law she’d just made to a room full of lawyers and legal academics. The conference was being sponsored by the Law Society of Alberta.

Around the country, First Nation communities, in “acts of self determination,” are striving to rebuild their own laws and governance structures from the legacy of the colonial era. And Canada’s legal community, says Friedland, an assistant professor of law at the University of Alberta, has become eager to discover how Indigenous concepts of law are influencing case law, legislation and legal practitioners.

In that vein, Friedland, along with Shalene Jobin, an associate professor in the U of A’s Faculty of Native Studies and a director of the U of A’s Indigenous Governance and Partnership Program, co-founded the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge.

Though there are no logs — for the time being the lodge is more a virtual repository for Indigenous legal knowledge than it is a physical structure — Wahkohtowin began its research and work developing Indigenous law at the beginning of May.

The lodge has been funded with a two-year, $567,400 grant from the Alberta Law Foundation. The project honors call to action #50 from the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which asks Canada to develop Indigenous law institutes throughout the country in collaboration with Indigenous communities. Wahkohtowin “advances one of the key objects of the Foundation, which is to support Indigenous legal programs,” Darlene Scott, chairwoman of the ALF, said in a statement.

Friedland and Jobin were inspired to approach the law foundation by the research of influential Cree activist Val Napoleon, who entered law school as a grandmother. Napoleon, now research chairwoman and Law Foundation Professor of Aboriginal Justice and Governance at the University of Victoria, established the Indigenous Law Research Unit at UVic’s Faculty of Law and has amassed a storehouse of British Columbia’s Indigenous legal traditions and theories. The work of ILRU became the foundation for the world’s first Indigenous law degree program, launched at the university last year.

“Dr. Napoleon coined the phrase ‘Indigenous legal lodge’ to hold her work,” says Friedland, who earned her law degree at UVic. “And that’s a concept we are working with.”

The Wahkohtowin Lodge’s work has begun with outreach to First Nations communities in Alberta hungering to “try and articulate and identify their own laws and legal principles.” Those principles will cover every kind of legal practice area that exists, because, Friedland says, “Indigenous societies are whole societies as well. Shalene’s work speaks to that.” But, adds Friedland, asked if some communities might resist working with academics, even if they have Indigenous heritage, “We are not going to just show up at the door of communities and ask to work with them. We will respond to invitations of interest from communities. And there’s no shortage of that.”

Already, in its first stage, Wahkohtowin has projects on the go, says Jobin. At the end of May 2018 Wahkohtowin held a three-day workshop at the U of A where elders, community leaders and members of the law profession worked together to help communities determine the vision of legal governance they want.

In a pilot project, says Jobin, the lodge has also been asked to help the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation near Grande Cache, Alta. to develop its own constitution-building resources. “We were approached by a community to do that work and that is happening right now as well.”

Friedland says there is an urgent need for Canada’s judges, lawyers and law students to increase their competency in Indigenous law.

“We have this educational deficit in Canada where we haven’t been teaching Indigenous law in law schools for 100 years. So [lawyers] are realizing they need more resources to be able to competently practise.”

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Innovating Regulation – Prairie Law Societies discussion paper

This discussion paper focusses on entity regulation, compliance-based regulation, and alternative business structures. It reviews experiences in Canada, Australia, England and Wales, and the United States of America.

The paper suggests that there is a gap between the regulatory frameworks of the three states and the requirements of the current legal services market.

The discussion paper: Innovating Regulation

Publications page on the website of the Law Society of Saskatchewan

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