The Law Society of Saskatchewan began taking steps toward firm regulation in 2014 when The Legal Profession Act was amended to include “firms” as “members” of the Law Society. In 2015, the Law Society joined the Innovating Regulation Project, a joint project between the Law Societies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (“the Prairie Law Societies”). The project considered the immense spectrum of the regulatory approaches to determine how best to regulate in an environment where the practice of law and the demand for legal services has changed significantly. These changes are driven by new technologies, new business models and growing concerns about access to justice.
Based on consultation, the Prairie Law Societies concluded that a proactive approach to the regulation of law firms and lawyers would help the law society regulate in not only a more modern way, but in a more effective way. This new approach will help firms manage risk, while reducing the likelihood of conduct leading to a complaint or negligence claims.
The Prairie Law Societies are not alone in this venture as proactive firm regulation is being considered and undertaken other jurisdictions. For example, Nova Scotia and British Columbia are well into this process and other Canadian jurisdictions are in varying degrees of reviewing the firm regulation approach.
The Innovating Regulation Discussion and Consultation Papers are all available on the Innovating Regulation section of the website if you would like to learn more about that particular project.
A significant step towards proactive firm regulation was taken by the Prairie Law Societies with the development and implementation of the Law Firm Practice Management Pilot Project in 2017. The firms that participated in the pilot were asked to appoint a Designated Representative and complete the Law Firm Practice Management Self Assessment Tool (Assessment Tool).
This project was an overall success, with a number of firms participating across the three provinces, providing us with valuable feedback that was for the most part, extremely positive. The purpose of the Assessment Tool is to assist firms in recognising its strengths and to identify areas that require further consideration, along with introductions to best practices, policies and procedures. These are all supported by a vast collection of resources directly related to the components of the Assessment Tool, providing additional support to the firms where needed.
The Assessment Tool is specifically designed to help firms think about the best ways to serve their clients, their lawyers and their employees. In doing so, the Assessment Tool facilitates the development of good business practices by of fostering ethical and efficient practices. From a regulatory perspective, the Assessment Tool helps the firm meet the public’s needs, and consequently, the public’s interest is better protected.
Firm Regulation Rules/ Requirements
The new Firm Regulation Rules form the new Part 9 of the Law Society Rules take effect January 1, 2020. What this means for firms is: