The Advisory: Volume 9, Issue 1, March 2011

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Executive Director's Report

Strategic Goals Support Sole Practitioners and Small Firm Lawyers

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

The work of the Law Society is becoming more focused on implementing its strategic goals and priorities. Serving in the public interest, the Law Society’s work provides stronger support for sole practitioners and lawyers working in remote areas of the province.

The consumer and legal profession surveys undertaken by the Law Society show that:

  • 72% of individual Albertans who used lawyers in last 3 years sought assistance from a practitioner in a firm with 1-9 lawyers
  • 62% of lawyers work as either a sole practitioner (30%) or at a small law firm (32%)

In other areas of the Law Society, work continues to be focused on Trust Safety, the Alberta Code of Conduct, Continuing Professional Development [among others] are designed to serve the public interest by promoting a high standard of legal services and professional conduct.

Trust Safety:

The Law Society is committed to supporting lawyers in maintaining efficient and effective accounting systems to ensure trust funds held by Alberta lawyers remain safe from fraudulent schemes and losses due to weak internal accounting systems.

In the last few years, Alberta lawyers have brought numerous risks to our attention. The Trust Safety Program will enable lawyers to develop and maintain internal accounting systems to protect against those risks. The program came into effect January 1, 2011.

Alberta Code:

A new National Model Code of Conduct, developed with a strong Alberta influence, has been adopted by the Federation of Law Societies. The Benchers have approved the Alberta version of the Model Code. We are now working on the implementation details, including the communications and education planning on how best to inform lawyers of the content of the new Code.

Professional Competence (CPD):

The goal of the CPD program is to enhance lawyer competence and to be accountable to the public for the ongoing professional development and competence of lawyers. Its aim is to ensure that each lawyer in Alberta strives for excellence in their practice through the mandatory annual planning and implementation of an effective CPD plan. This program is now in year three.

The Law Society continues to work on many other strategic goals and priorities, as well as issues. A current issue before the Law Society is that of legal aid in Alberta.

Budget Increase for Legal Aid a Step Forward

The Alberta government’s 2011-2012 budget announcement on February 24, 2011 included a 10 per cent increase in funding for legal aid in Alberta, in an environment in which overall Department of Justice funding was reduced by 0.5 per cent.

This is a step forward in the right direction. The Law Society will continue its work towards the goal of an adequately funded legal aid system.

Although the Law Society has no direct control over the funding and operation of Legal Aid Alberta, it does have an interest in the delivery of legal aid as part of our efforts to ensure and enhance Albertans’ access to justice.

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