The Initiatives section is a new feature of the Law Society website. The Law Society dedicates itself to an in-depth exploration of some of the major issues affecting the legal system in Saskatchewan, and professional regulation nationally and internationally. The Law Society collaborates with and consults several stakeholders to support this work in accordance with our strategic plan. We are currently delivering major initiatives in several areas:
• Access to Justice
o Alternative Legal Service Providers – The Ministry of Justice and the Law Society of Saskatchewan jointly undertook a project to explore the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services.
o Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI) – To address the growing public need for legal information, the Law Society’s Legal Resources department and several other legal information providers launched a project to improve access to legal information for Saskatchewan residents through the public library system
• Truth and Reconciliation – Recognizing the importance of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and the advancement of reconciliation, the Law Society of Saskatchewan has committed to responding to Call to Action #27 from the Calls to Action Report. We have developed several Continuing Professional Development programs to offer cultural competency training and will continue to develop further resources.
• Equity – The Equity Office at the Law Society of Saskatchewan is committed to both eliminating discrimination and harassment and promoting equity in the legal profession. Through our confidential email and toll-free phone line, we assist individual lawyers, articling students and support staff who ask for help in resolving complaints of discrimination or harassment by listening to complaints, assessing the nature of the complaint, and informing the individual about potential measures for dealing with the complaint. When resolution is required, complaints will be referred to an independent mediator. The Equity Office has also developed policies to implement equity in the workplace.
• Saskatchewan Justicia Project – The Justicia Project was developed in Ontario by the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2008 as a partnership between the law society and law firms to work collaboratively to share best practices, develop resources and adopt proactive programs to support the retention and advancement of female lawyers in private practice. The ultimate goal of the Justicia Project is to create better work arrangements for both lawyers and firms. The Saskatchewan Justicia Project was introduced in November of 2014.
• Innovating Regulation – The practice of law and the public’s demands for legal services are changing. Driven in part by new technologies, new business models and access to justice concerns, delivery and regulation of legal services has begun evolving around the world. In response, the Law Societies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been examining a spectrum of regulatory tools that includes entity regulation, compliance-based regulation and alternative business structures to determine which, if any, might be effective in our jurisdictions. The Prairie Law Societies determined that proactive regulation of law firms in addition to regulation of individual lawyers was appropriate and has been working towards a regulatory framework that incorporates that approach.
In Saskatchewan, The Legal Profession Act, 1990 was amended in 2014 to include firms as members of the Law Society. Under the Act, one of the duties of the Law Society is to protect the public by assuring the integrity, knowledge, skill, proficiency and competence of members. A proactive approach would allow both law firms and the Law Society to be more responsive to a diverse and profoundly changing environment, to enhance the quality of legal services, to encourage ethical legal practice and to foster innovation in legal services.
To determine the most meaningful way to engage with law firms though proactive regulation, the Prairie Law Societies conducted a pilot project in 2017 to test a new resource which helps firms assess the robustness of their practice management systems and firm culture. The Law Firm Practice Management Assessment Tool (the “Assessment Tool”) helps a firm recognize its strengths and provides “things to consider” in areas where opportunities for improvement have been identified. These include examples of how a law firm might put practices, policies or procedures into place, along with links to further resources that law firms can use in addressing practice management concerns.