The Law Society regulates lawyers and the practice of law in the public interest.
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. 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 (the Act) include a definition of the practice of law. It reads as follows:
29.1 The practice of law is the application of legal principles and judgment with regard to the circumstances or objectives of another entity or person that require the knowledge and skill of a person trained in the law, and includes the following:
(a) giving advice or counsel to others with respect to their legal rights or responsibilities or the legal rights or responsibilities of others;
(b) drafting or completing legal documents or agreements that affect the legal rights of an entity or person;
(c) representing another entity or person in any of the following:
(i) a court;
(ii) a formal administrative adjudicative proceeding;
(iii) a formal dispute resolution process;
(iv) any other administrative adjudicative proceeding in which legal pleadings are filed or a record is established as
the basis for judicial review;
(d) negotiating legal rights or responsibilities on behalf of another entity or person
It is unlawful for individuals to practice law or provide legal services directly to the public without a license, this is considered unauthorized practice. Unlicensed individuals who offer legal services for a fee or misrepresent themselves as lawyers may put the public at risk, and therefore are prohibited from doing so.
Section 30 of the Act defines the unauthorized practice of law:
30(1) Subject to section 31, no persons other than members who hold a licence shall:
(a) practise law in Saskatchewan; or
(b) hold themselves out as, or represent themselves to be, persons who may practise law in Saskatchewan.
(2) Subject to section 31, a person, other than a member who holds a licence, who commences, prosecutes or defends an action or proceeding in a court of civil or criminal jurisdiction or acts as counsel or a lawyer in an action or proceeding is:
(a) incapable of recovering any fee, reward or disbursement on that account; and
(b) deemed to be guilty of a contempt of the court in which the proceeding has been commenced, carried on, defended or prosecuted, and may be proceeded against for contempt before the Court of Appeal or a judge of the court sitting in chambers.
(3) Nothing in this section affects the ability of a person or entity to provide members of the public with information of a general nature about the law and legal procedures or any other legal information as defined in the rules.
Subject to section 31, no persons other than members who hold a licence shall: (a) practise law in Saskatchewan; or (b) hold themselves out as, or represent themselves to be, persons who may practise law in Saskatchewan. Doing so would constitute the unauthorized practice of law.
Exemptions to Unauthorized Practice
Section 31 of the Act details exceptions to unauthorized practice and section 10 grants authority to the Law Society to, in its Rules, exempt persons and classes of persons from the prohibition against the unauthorized practice of law and, as a condition of the exemption, require any exempted person or class of exempted persons to comply with any term or condition.
Some existing alternative (non-lawyer) 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 formalizes 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 as part of the Future of Legal Services Initiative.
The Act gives the Law Society authority to prosecute individuals who engage in the unlawful practice of law. Importantly, the Law Society will continue to enforce unauthorized practice provisions against individuals or organizations who pose a clear risk to the public due to a lack of training or experience, an unacceptable risk associated with their activities, identified issues that might affect the rule of law or administration of justice, and/or misleading the public about qualifications or status with the Law Society.