The Law Society of Saskatchewan is an independent body that regulates the legal profession in the province. Its core mandate is to protect the public interest. As part of the Law Society’s strategic plan to increase access to legal services, the Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan created the Legal Services Task Team in 2017 to explore the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some low risk legal services. The Task Team, comprised of lawyers, individuals working in the legal system who are not lawyers and members of the public, made several recommendations including clarifying the definition of the practice of law and identifying what represents an unauthorized practice of law. Effective January 1, 2020, amendments to The Legal Profession Act, 1990 include a clearer definition of the practice law.
The Task Team also recommended expanding the list of exemptions to the unauthorized practice provisions and creating limited licenses that may be granted by the Law Society to non-lawyer legal service providers on a case-by-case basis. Limited licenses would be given to alternative service providers operating within a specific, individualized scope of practice reflecting the knowledge, training, and experience of the service provider or group of service providers. Limited licensing is a unique approach, the first of its kind in Canada, that enables the Law Society to expand access to appropriately regulated limited legal services in a responsible and sustainable manner. The overall goal is to balance the need for enhanced access to legal services for underserved Saskatchewan citizens while ensuring public protection.
Effective January 1, 2020, the Law Society of Saskatchewan Rules were amended to include an expanded list of exemptions to unauthorized practice. However, the Law Society is actively engaged in a discovery process to identify other groups and individuals providing limited legal services, who are not lawyers, that may not fall neatly within the new list of exemptions. 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. Through a notice process, the Law Society has begun the process of more closely examining new exemptions to the unauthorized practice provisions and to assist in the development of a limited license program through further consultation and pilot projects.
Many 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 providers on a temporary basis while new rules, processes and categories of licenses are explored.
Filling out the notice 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.
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.
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 to the public. For further information, please email us at email@example.com or visit our website.