2019 was an exceptional year for the Law Society of Saskatchewan. Benchers, Staff and Committees focussed on creating the new Rules of the Law Society of Saskatchewan necessary to conform with incoming amendments to The Legal Profession Act, 1990 which came into force on January 1, 2020. During this process, we also took the opportunity to revise the Rules in their entirety, a task which, until 2019, had not been undertaken in almost 30 years. This was an enormous effort. It was also truly a team effort. As a result, unlike previous years where we highlighted the work of individual committees, we felt these important 2019 team accomplishments were best framed in the aggregate to appropriately celebrate the group nature of this daunting task. You will also notice that the content of the report is largely contained in links that reference existing communications related to key items of Society business. It has been done this way to highlight our commitment to timely and transparent communication throughout the year. We hope you find the 2019 Annual Report in its new format helpful and informative.
1. Expanded Approach to Competency
- New CPD policy – Effective January 1, 2020, the Law Society of Saskatchewan changed from the former three-year rolling CPD term to the current one-year CPD term.
- New PREP program – PREP is a nine-month course with four phases where students develop the competencies required to be admitted to the Bar as an entry-level lawyer and replaces the former Bar Admission Course. In 2019, the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED) conducted pilot projects for the new PREP program in Alberta and Manitoba.
2. Trusted and Transparent Regulation
- Firm Regulation – The practice of law and the public’s demands for legal services are changing. Driven in part by new technologies, new business models and access to justice concerns, delivery and regulation of legal services has begun evolving around the world. In 2015, the Law Societies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba examined a spectrum of regulatory tools including entity and compliance-based regulation to determine which, if any, might be effective in our jurisdictions. In December 2018, the Benchers of the Law Society of Saskatchewan approved, in principle, the necessary framework for the implementation of proactive firm regulation and approved the creation of the Firm Regulation Committee. The Committee has completed its development of the Firm Regulation Rules (Part 9 of the Law Society Rules). These Rules came into force on January 1, 2020.
- Changes to The Legal Profession Act, 1990 – There have been significant amendments to The Legal Profession Act, 1990, which were proclaimed into force on January 1, 2020. The overall effect of these amendments is to assist the Law Society’s shift towards a more modern approach to regulation.
- Changes to the Law Society Rules – In order to accommodate changes to The Legal Profession Act,1990, significant amendments were required in some areas of the Law Society Rules. We also took the opportunity to take a close look at our Rules and make improvements where necessary. Our amended Rules came into effect on January 1, 2020.
- 2019 was the first year of operation for the new and improved Conduct Investigation Committee. This new model allows all referrals to the Committee to be considered by a larger group on a more timely basis. This was a move away from past practice which placed higher demands on small panels. The Committee has found the new format to be very successful in moving matters forward in an efficient and effective manner.
- In August 2019, the Law Society launched our Legal Skies podcast, a monthly series focused on Law Society initiatives and areas of interest to the profession.
3. Innovative, Flexible and Forward-Thinking Leadership
- Amendments to the Code of Professional Conduct relating to Technological Competence were approved by the Benchers.
- Cloud Computing Working Group – In 2019, the Law Society of Saskatchewan established a Cloud Computing Working Group. The Working Group will review the materials and training currently available from the Law Society and make recommendations seeking to increase understanding of safe and effective usage of cloud-based solutions.
- New Library Resources – In September 2019, Vincent, an intelligent research assistant by vLex, was made available to Saskatchewan lawyers. Vincent can analyze a judgment, brief, legal memorandum or any other legal document, and extract significant concepts to generate the most relevant results from among vLex Canada’s extensive legal libraries.
- CPD Programming – The Law Society presented several webinars and events focusing on innovation and technology. These can all be accessed on CPD OnDemand.
4. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
- Truth and Reconciliation – 2019 marked the first meetings of the Truth & Reconciliation Advisory Group. The Truth & Reconciliation Advisory Group provides advice on issues within the mandate of the Society affecting Indigenous people in Saskatchewan.
- The Competency Committee worked to encourage members to participate in education related to EDI and TRC topics by incorporating these topics into seminars in addition to offering stand-alone training in these areas and developing CPD “bundles” which include a category related to these topics.
- The Equity & Access Committee reviewed and recommended changes to the process used to collect demographic data as part of the annual renewal process. The recommendations were approved by the Benchers and implemented for 2020 annual renewal. Work began on an Equity and Inclusion survey to identify barriers faced by members of equity-seeking groups in relation to entry and advancement within the legal profession.
- CPD Programming – The Law Society presented several CPD offerings focused on equity, diversity and inclusion to enhance member competency in this important area, many of which were offered for free or at a reduced rate. These can all be accessed on CPD OnDemand.
5. Access to Legal Services
- First Steps to LSTT Implementation – The Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan created a Task Team in 2017 to explore the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services. The Task Team comprised of lawyers, individuals working in the legal system who are not lawyers and members of the public recommended both expanding the list of exemptions to the unauthorized practice provisions and creating limited licenses for legal services that will be granted by the Law Society on a case-by-case basis. The Law Society will begin the process of more closely examining new exceptions to the unauthorized practice provisions through further consultation and pilot projects to support the development of appropriate rules. We currently aim to proceed with implementing the limited license program within the next 18 to 24 months. One of the recommendations from the Task Team was to clarify the definition of the practice of law and identify what represents an unauthorized practice of law. Effective January 1, 2020, amendments to The Legal Profession Act, 1990 include a clearer definition of the practice of law.
- Saskatchewan Legal Coaching and Unbundled Services Pilot Project – A Working Group comprised of the Law Society of Saskatchewan, Ministry of Justice, and CREATE Justice (the Centre for Research, Evaluation and Action Towards Equal Justice) at the College of Law, have launched the Saskatchewan Legal Coaching and Unbundled Services Pilot Project (LCUP). The purpose of the project is to support, enhance, and advance legal coaching and the use of limited scope retainers. A data collection project will also run in 2020. The primary purpose is to assess the impact of unbundling on lawyers and clients, their satisfaction with providing and receiving unbundled legal services, and ultimately, clients’ ability to access justice.
Saskatchewan Lawyers' Insurance Association (2019 Update)
- SLIA, together with the Law Society of Saskatchewan, fund the Practice Advisor Program, which in addition to complaint reviews and recommendations to members, also facilitates advisors to meet with each new solo practitioner and new small firm to provide assistance and recommendations to assist members in developing a low-risk practice. In 2019, the Practice Advisor Program was made available to any member who needs help working through practice management issues. Members are encouraged to contact practice advisors with questions or concerns about practice standards or management issues. Under this confidential program, the practice advisor and member will work together to address the issue at no cost to the member and no formal report will be provided to the Law Society of Saskatchewan or SLIA.
- Access to mental health resources and assistance continues to be a priority for SLIA. Members are encouraged to make use of the free confidential assistance offered through Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers for personal counselling as well as online learning and resources through HomeWeb. Highlights of resources available are provided to members bi-monthly through SLIA News.
- SLIA continued to manage the Law Society Outside Directorship Liability Insurance Policy for members involved as a Director or Officer of an outside organization. This Policy covers various types of claims made by reason of such services.