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Alternative Legal Service Providers

Alternative Legal Service Providers

Background

The Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan jointly undertook a project to explore the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services. In 2017, a Task Team - comprised of lawyers, individuals working in the legal system who are not lawyers and members of the public - was appointed to examine this issue and develop recommendations for consideration by the Benchers and the Ministry about the appropriate role, if any, of non-lawyers in the provision of legal services. In carrying out its mandate, the Legal Services Task Team considered a wide range of possible approaches and kept the public interest central to its determination.

To assist the Task Team’s examination, an extensive consultation with legal organizations and other stakeholders within Saskatchewan’s justice system was conducted. The Task Team has completed its work and released its final report. The report includes a number of recommendations on how to improve the regulation and provision of legal services in the province.

The recommendations include:

  • providing greater clarity to service providers about what legal services are regulated;
  • expanding the list of exceptions to the prohibition against practicing law to recognize existing service providers;
  • providing the Law Society with licensing authority to allow service providers to practice law with a limited licence on a case-by-case basis;
  • modernizing the legislation regulating legal services to provide more flexibility for future developments in this area;
  • creating guidelines to help educate the public about legal services; and
  • conducting pilot projects to help develop and test the recommendations.

Please note that the Task Team did not recommend the creation of a new class of service providers with a robust regulatory structure at this time, like the regulation of paralegals in Ontario. The Task Team determined this model was too complex and would be too costly to develop without assurances that we would have a sufficient number of service providers.

The final report can be found here.

 

Implementation of the Legal Services Task Team Recommendations

The Benchers of the Law Society of Saskatchewan considered the work of the Legal Services Task Team and accepted the recommendations as outlined in the Task Team’s final report. The Benchers of the Law Society of Saskatchewan express appreciation for the extensive work of the Co-Chairs and the Legal Services Task Team and staff working group in examining this complex issue and commend those involved throughout the consultation process.

The Law Society is taking a measured approach to the implementation of the Task Team recommendations. The Task Team recommendations are a good starting point and provide the Law Society with the flexibility and discretion to implement in an appropriate manner.

 

Implementation Stage 1: Definition of Practice of Law and Exemptions to Unauthorized Practice

One of the Task Team recommendations 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 of law. The definition can be found here.

Recognizing that many groups and individuals who are not lawyers may find themselves caught within the definition of the practice of law, the Law Society added rule s. 1002(1) to the Law Society Rules, 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 exemptions can be found here and came into effect January 1, 2020.

 

Implementation Stage 2: Discovery Phase

During 2020, the Law Society will be expanding upon the work of the Task Team to further explore the provision of legal services in the province and legal service needs. The future of the profession requires the Law Society to continue to study this issue and develop principled exemptions to ultimately support the public interest. This is not a small change. It requires further study, evidence and due diligence. The Law Society has a responsibility as a self-regulated profession to study how regulation must change for self-regulation to survive going into the future. The discovery process will continue to clarify and inform next steps.

The Law Society recognizes that other groups and individuals providing limited legal services, who are not lawyers, may not fall neatly within the current list of exemptions. Just prior to the coming into force of the newly amended Legal Profession Act, the Law Society began seeking to identify non-lawyer service providers for inclusion in the development of new initiatives. Specifically, the Law Society is interested in expanding access to legal services in a variety of areas through initiatives like limited licenses and through the expansion of exemptions to the provisions of the Act that relate to the unauthorized practice of law.

Through a notice process, the Law Society is seeking to identify those groups and individuals. Identification and review of legal service providers who do not fall within existing exemptions will inform the development of new or expanded exemption where appropriate and, in other cases, will provide the foundation for consideration of new categories of limited licensees. The process will also inform the development of pilot projects with existing providers to assist in the creation of the limited license framework. Please see our Consultation page for more information on this process.