Effective January 1, 2020, amendments to The Legal Profession Act include a clearer definition of the practice of law. These amendments also clarify and identify what represents an unauthorized practice of law. Recognizing that many groups and individuals who are not lawyers may find themselves caught within the definition, the Law Society 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.
In an effort to increase access to justice, the Law Society continues to seek out service providers not currently identified in our rules that may be providing valuable services without posing a significant risk to the public.
The Law Society is closely examining new exceptions to our unauthorized practice provisions, through consultation and pilot projects, to support the development of appropriate rules. In 2017, The Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan created a Legal Services 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 can be granted by the Law Society on a case-by-case basis.
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.
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. A non-exclusive example of these limited service providers might include 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.
The consultation of legal service providers who do not fall within existing exemptions will inform the development of new or expanded exemptions where appropriate or may provide the foundation for 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.
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.