The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 4, October 2010

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Executive Director's Report

As a Regulator, the Law Society Takes the Safety of Trust Property Seriously

By Don Thompson, QC, Executive Director, Law Society of Alberta

AS ALBERTA experiences an economic rebound and leads the nation in GDP growth, the Law Society is poised to become an even stronger model regulator.

What does economic growth mean for the Law Society?

With an estimated $250 billion safely flowing through lawyers’ trust accounts each year in Alberta, it demonstrates that as a regulator, we take the safety of trust property seriously. Both the public and the legal profession have a vested interest in ensuring that trust funds are safe.

As a regulator, the Law Society’s role is essentially three-fold: firstly, to manage risk and controls; secondly, to provide assurance and enforcement; and thirdly, to ensure continuing competence and education.

The Law Society’s new Safety of Trust Property program is almost complete. The program has been approved by the Benchers and a pilot program is underway. The pilot has confirmed the effectiveness of the automated audit tool and has been well received by participants. A new department has been set up to manage the program, subsuming the prior Audit department and program.

Draft rules and guidelines will be discussed at the September Benchers’ meeting with comments to be integrated into the final versions to be approved at the November Benchers’ meeting.

The planned effective date of January 2011 is on target, subject to final approval by the Benchers.

A new on-line education program will be offered through the Legal Education Society of Alberta. Module one will focus on trust accounting fundamentals. It will be also used in the CPLED course. Module two will focus on the obligations of the responsible lawyer and cover the new Safety of Trust Property regime in detail. These modules will be available to all lawyers with the launch of the program in 2011.

This new regulatory structure for safety of trust property addresses concerns about rising threats to the security of trust funds. The complementary education and risk assessment components will enable lawyers to continue to protect themselves and their clients from those threats. The Safety of Trust Property Project protects the public interest and will reinforce the confidence of the public about the safety of their trust money.

The Law Society will become an even stronger model regulator with this new regulatory structure and audit controls.

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