Message from the President: Carsten Jensen, QC
The Law Society of Alberta’s main mandate is to regulate the legal profession in the public interest. The world is changing rapidly and this is having a real impact in the manner in which legal services are being delivered, and the business structures used by lawyers in private practice. In a number of jurisdictions, including England and Wales, and Australia, the profession can now provide services through Alternative Business Structures (ABS). In general, these ABS enterprises have significant non-lawyer involvement, either in management, or through investment. These are developments being monitored closely by the Law Society of Alberta as a regulator.
At the same time, technological changes are having an impact on legal practices everywhere, and the Law Society of Alberta is working hard to keep up with these changes. The Law Society’s new Trust Safety Program is now in its third year. This program relies heavily on software capabilities to identify potential problems before they became large losses.
We have a number of specific priorities for 2013:
- The Budget and Financial Affairs Committee will look at the amount of costs that can be awarded in disciplinary hearings. The current costs structure has not been reviewed or updated for many years.
- The Law Society will look to streamline the complaint appeals process. This is the process that is followed when complaints against lawyers are dismissed, and the complainant wants to advance an appeal. The current process is needlessly cumbersome, and can be onerous on both the complainant and the lawyer, and we are going to look for a better way to do this work.
- The Credentials and Education Committee will look at the work being done at the national level to create national standards for admission to practice, and regarding suitability to practice. This is necessary work given that Alberta lawyers now enjoy practice mobility across the common law provinces.
- The Law Society will consider extending full lawyer mobility to the Province of Quebec, on a reciprocal basis. This is part of a national project to extend and enhance mobility, and will be based on lawyers restricting themselves to practice areas where they are competent, while doing away with regulatory hurdles based on geography.
- We are continuing to look at ways to streamline the conduct and disciplinary process. The Law Society has a Task Force working on changes to that process which will, in the short term, include a bigger role for Practice Review as an early intervention, an early guilty-plea process, and better pre-hearing conferences.
- In Ontario, a number of changes are taking place regarding the Articling Process. Specifically, the Law Society of Upper Canada is developing an alternative path to admission, which will involve an intensive practical training course in lieu of articling. We are monitoring these developments very closely for their impact on Alberta.
Finally, the Law Society of Alberta is in the final year of its
three-year Strategic Plan. The Benchers will be working throughout 2013 on refreshing that plan for the next three years. We will continue to focus on the independent regulation of the profession, in the public interest, and the new strategic plan will reflect that priority. I look forward to hearing any comments or questions you may have as we work to implement these priorities. Please feel free to reach me via email.
Welcome to New Executive and Benchers
At the February Benchers meeting, the Benchers extended a fond farewell to outgoing President, Steve Raby, QC, while welcoming Carsten Jensen, QC, for the incoming term. Kevin Feth, QC, now sits as President-Elect.
Cal Johnson, QC, joins the Law Society of Alberta as the sole new Bencher. For the complete list of Benchers, click here.
The Law Society thanks Steve Raby for his invaluable and immeasurable volunteer contributions to the Society and the legal profession as a whole.