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 be in a position to proceed with implementing the limited license program within the next 18 to 24 months.
This unique approach, the first of its kind in Canada, enables the Law Society to expand access to appropriately regulated legal services in a responsible and sustainable manner. The overall goal is to balance the need for enhanced access to legal services for underserved Saskatchewan citizens while ensuring public protection.
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, include a clearer definition of the practice law. This definition can be found on our website.
Recognizing that many groups and individuals who are not lawyers may find themselves caught within the definition, the Law Society has added rule 1002(1) identifying certain groups and individuals who may be exempted from the new unauthorized practice provisions, and in the public interest, continue to provide limited legal services without becoming a lawyer. The current exemptions can be viewed here.
The Law Society also recognizes that there are other groups and individuals providing limited legal services, who are not lawyers, that may not fall neatly within the current list of exemptions; for example, a person who is a non-lawyer who is charging a fee to provide limited legal services to a party appearing before an administrative tribunal. Through a notice process, the Law Society is seeking to identify those existing groups and individuals to assist with the transition into the new era of limited licenses. Identification and review of legal service providers who do not fall within existing exemptions will inform the development of new or expanded exemptions where appropriate and, in other cases, will provide the foundation for consideration of new categories of limited licensees. This process will also inform the development of pilot projects planned prior to the official rollout of the limited licensee program.
Many existing legal service providers, though they may not fall within the list of current exemptions, do not pose a significant risk to the public. Historically, the Law Society has not pursued criminal prosecutions or sought injunctions against these types of low risk providers even if their activities meet the technical definition of unauthorized practice. As a result, the Law Society wishes to formalize its stance not to prosecute or enforce against these existing providers on a temporary basis while new rules, processes and categories of licenses are explored.
In order to facilitate this, the Law Society is asking existing legal service providers to self-identify by completing the notice form. Filling out the form and self-identifying to the Law Society will give non-lawyer legal service providers the opportunity to be considered for inclusion within existing or expanded exemptions, pilot projects or newly developed categories of limited licensee. Self-identifying to the Law Society will also enable existing low-risk service providers to have the opportunity to receive a letter from the Law Society confirming that they may continue to provide limited legal services, in their identified areas of work (subject to appropriate restrictions and conditions), without fear of prosecution or enforcement by the Law Society, while their long term status is considered in the context of new regulatory structures. To facilitate a smooth transition for service providers who self-identify, the Law Society will maintain the status quo during this initial period of notice and discovery.
The goal of this process is to provide certain legal service providers with the assurance that they may maintain the status quo after the coming into force of the new provisions in the Act and the Rules. The Law Society will continue to enforce against those individuals or organizations who pose a clear risk to the public due to a lack of training, misleading the public about qualifications or status with the Law Society, or due to an unacceptable risk associated with their activities.
Please share this information to any legal service provider who may be impacted by these changes. Through this ongoing process, we look forward to working with alternative legal service providers, the public and other stakeholders in developing a flexible regulatory structure that promotes access to justice while minimizing risk to the public. For further information, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.