The Law Society’s Ethics Committee recently released the following Ethics Ruling as guidance for the profession. For your convenience, I’ve listed the ruling below but it can also be found in our Ethics Rulings Database.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please contact the Law Society at (306) 569-8242 or 1-833-733-0133.
Date: June 26, 2018
Cite as: 2018 SKLSPC 7
Code Chapter: 3.4
Code Heading: Conflicts
Classification: Duty to Avoid Conflicts of Interest
Practice Area: Immigration
Law Firm XYZ does immigration work on behalf of Immigration Company A, which is owned by relatives of Law Firm XYZ’s partners. In addition, Law Firm XYZ’s partners and their spouses own Immigration Company B, for which Law Firm XYZ has not yet done immigration work. Client service and administration at Immigration Company B is done by an employee of Law Firm XYZ. Immigration Company B not a licensed immigration consultancy.
The Ethics Committee considered whether there is the potential for conflicts of interest. While lawyer X lists the Immigration Companies as the client, the individuals themselves are the true clients. The individuals seeking legal advice, and not the Immigration Companies or another referral entity, must be treated as the client. Every legal client is due the same standard of care and all the protection entailed in the Rules of the Law Society of Saskatchewan and the Code of Professional Conduct, regardless of who referred that client and how that client became a client.
The Committee also considered whether the public was fully protected from potential negligence, competence or conduct claims. The clients of the Immigration Companies may not be entirely aware that Lawyer X is doing work for them. It is likely not sufficiently clear to the clients that they could file a claim of negligence or a complaint to the Law Society against Lawyer X, if the circumstances warranted it. The Committee is concerned that the reason the client relationship is structured in this way is to attempt to protect the members from liability or claim. The Committee determined that the current structures of Immigration Company A and Immigration Company B are not proper; it is not appropriate for a lawyer to try to absolve their professional responsibilities through a corporate structure.