The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 2, April 2010

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Time Right to Improve Complaints and Discipline Process

By Karen McDougall, Casefinder

The work of the Law Society most visible to the public, that of managing complaints and discipline (conduct), will undergo a review and improvements.

This initiative is part of the larger Law Society strategic goal of serving the public interest by “promoting and ensuring high ethical standards… on the part of all those seeking admission to and practising law in Alberta”.

This latest planned review of the complaints and discipline process responds to the recommendations of the Law Society’s process task force, chaired by Rod Jerke, QC, Law Society President.

According to Rod Jerke, the task force report represents an “environmental scan” which is important to the decision of whether or not to embark on another full review. That report shows continuing public concern relating to the Law Society’s process and its work as a regulator.

According to Rod Jerke, based on the conclusions and recommendations contained in the task force report, the time is right to review and enhance Alberta’s complaints and discipline process “to make it more efficient and effective in serving the public interest”. While he admits that it is a large and ambitious project, Rod Jerke says that it is one “whose time has come”.

Although the Law Society has continued to hone and refine the process over the years, a complete review hasn’t been undertaken for 20 years, since Alberta’s Legal Profession Act was overhauled in 1990.

That last review resulted in a move toward a more transparent process. There was a shift away from the private, closed-door process, dependent on an initial screening of complaints by the chief executive officer, to a transparent process involving notifications to the complainant related to the process, its ultimate outcome and the reasons for the decision determining the complaint.

Also in the early 1990’s, the benchers approved new Rules. Those have been changing and evolving ever since, in answer to unforeseen consequences of the Rules and the changing climate in which they have operated.

Karen McDougall is a Principal in Casefinder which is a firm providing writing and research services to other Alberta lawyers. She is coauthor of a case book for Carswell, “The 2010 Annotated Alberta Family Law Act”, and author of the “Alberta Family Law Annotated Legislation”. She is the Alberta correspondent for The Lawyers Weekly.

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