(Posted on December 19, 2011) The Council of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved an update to the Federation’s Model Code of Professional Conduct (the “Model Code”) by revising the conflicts of interest rule to incorporate provisions that deal with acting against current clients (the “Current Client Rule”). In 2009, the Model Code was adopted without a rule on conflicts of interest pending further study by the Federation’s Advisory Committee on Conflicts of Interest. That committee submitted reports to Council in June 2010 dealing with the rule on conflicts of interest and in February 2011 dealing more specifically with the Current Client Rule. In March 2011, the Council directed the Federation’s Standing Committee on the Model Code of Professional Conduct to consider the reports of the Advisory Committee and the recommended formulation of the Current Client Rule. At that time Council adopted a rule on conflicts of interest as part of the Model Code, but without a Current Client Rule. In November, the Standing Committee issued its report on conflicts of interest recommending a revised rule and changes to the definitions section of the Model Code. The Federation Council approved the Standing Committee’s recommendations at a meeting held on December 13, 2011. The report of the Standing Committee is available here. The mandate of the Standing Committee includes ongoing review of the Model Code. The adoption of the Model Code by the Federation reflects a belief that the public should be able to expect the same ethical requirements to apply wherever their legal advisor may practice law. A number of law societies have implemented or are in the process of implementing the Model Code and it is expected that over time, any significant differences in rules of conduct across Canada will be eliminated. November 23, 2011 The Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Standing Committee on the Model Code of Professional Conduct (the "Standing Committee") has submitted to the Federation Council its report dealing with the rule on conflicts of interest. The matter was referred to the Standing Committee by the Federation Council in March 2011.The Standing Committee’s report will be considered by the Federation Council at its next meeting on December 13, 2011. The report is available here. November 15, 2011 The Supreme Court of Canada's newest justices were welcomed to the nation's top court in a ceremony in Ottawa on November 14th, 2011. In his comments during the ceremony, the President of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, Ronald J. MacDonald, Q.C. said that our strong and vibrant system of administration of justice is a precious gift we must never take for granted. The text of his remarks are available here. (Posted on November 15, 2011) The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (“Federation”) is pleased to announce that John J.L. Hunter, Q.C. of Vancouver has been elected President for 2011-2012. Mr. Hunter holds degrees from Yale University and the London School of Economics, and earned his law degree from the University of Toronto. He was admitted to the Law Society of British Columbia in 1977, and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1994. Mr. Hunter is a senior litigation counsel at Hunter Litigation Chambers in Vancouver, B.C. He is a Fellow and former Provincial Chair of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and is also a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers. Mr. Hunter is also a Life Bencher of the Law Society of British Columbia, and served as President of the Society in 2008. From 2007-2009 he chaired the Federation’s Task Force on the Canadian Common Law Degree, and joined the Federation Council in 2010 as the representative of the Law Society of British Columbia. The new Federation President says he will focus on three priorities during his term. “We have begun important work to harmonize our regulatory processes, particularly in the area of admissions and discipline”, he notes. “With national mobility a reality for almost ten years, now we have to follow through with national standards.” Recently the Federation adopted a new national requirement for Canadian common law degrees, and work is now underway with Canada’s law schools to implement a monitoring system as part of the law societies’ public interest mandate to ensure entry-level competence for new members of the legal profession. Mr. Hunter also plans to focus on public access to legal services. “Too many Canadians simply lack the resources to access the justice system”, he says. “The Federation is working with Canada’s law societies to find ways, within their regulatory mandates, to alleviate these challenges in cooperation with other partners in the justice system.” Another objective for the new Federation President is to position the Federation and Canada’s law societies as leading standard-setting organizations for professional ethics in close collaboration with Canada’s law schools. Mr. Hunter explained, “The Federation has adopted a Model Code of Professional Conduct for all of Canada’s law societies to use as a basic reference document for regulating professional ethics. At the same time, we require law schools to teach legal ethics as part of their core curriculum. We need to work… Posted September 28, 2011 The regulation of the legal profession by Canada’s law societies provides an effective and constitutional anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regime, the British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled. In a judgment handed down September 27, 2011, the Court also said the application of the federal Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the related regulations to the legal profession violate section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and is therefore unconstitutional. The case was brought to Court by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada with support from the Law Society of British Columbia, the Barreau du Québec, the Chambre des notaires du Québec, and the Canadian Bar Association as intervening parties. The Federation argued the federal legislation is unnecessary because Canada’s law societies have already implemented rules requiring legal professionals to identify their clients, and to not accept large amounts of cash from clients except in certain circumstances. The Court accepted these arguments, and held that all legal professionals are exempt from the legislation. “We are pleased that the court has recognized the important and proactive role the law societies are playing in the fight against money laundering" the President of the Federation of Law Societies, Ronald J, MacDonald, Q.C. said. “Canada’s law societies share many of the same objectives as the federal government in fighting money laundering, and in keeping with their public interest mandate they have implemented rules and rigorous enforcement measures to deal with any allegations of unethical conduct or money laundering that may involve members of the legal profession”. The Federation’s model “no-cash” and “know-your-client” rules are two key components of the law societies’ initiatives to fight money laundering. Members of the legal profession are prohibited from accepting more than $7,500 in cash to ensure trust accounts cannot be used for illegal activities. They are also bound by strict “know-your-client” rules to ensure that they are providing advice only to bona fide clients whose identity can be reliably ascertained. The model rules are available on the Federation web site, www.flsc.ca. The Federation also argued before the Court that the federal legislation is unconstitutional because it interferes with the rights of clients to obtain legal advice in confidence. “When they consult their legal advisor, Canadians expect their communications will be held in strict confidence” the Federation President added. “But law societies also recognize that the legal… (Posted on August 22, 2011) The Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Common Law Degree Implementation Committee (the "Committee") submitted its final report to the Council of the Federation in August 2011. In accordance with its mandate, the Committee has developed a proposal to implement the common law degree national requirement for entry to law society admission programs in Canadian common law jurisdictions. This work, a key component of the Federation’s mission to develop national admissions standards, builds upon the recommendations of the Federation’s Task Force on the Canadian Common Law Degree which were adopted by Canada’s law societies in 2010. The Committee’s report was considered by the Federation Council at its meeting on September 15, 2011. The report is available here. (Posted on August 4, 2011) CanLII and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada have been granted leave to intervene at the Supreme Court of Canada in SOCAN v. Bell et al., a copyright case to be heard later this year in which the Court will be asked to provide guidance on the meaning of “research” as a fair dealing user right under the Copyright Act. CANLII is a non-profit organization created and funded by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, on behalf of its 14 member law societies. CanLII is also a member of the Free Access to Law Movement, which includes the primary stakeholders involved in free, open publication of law throughout the world. While the facts of the SOCAN case relate to online music previews and not legal research, the legal questions at issue include the meaning of “research” as a head of fair dealing and how, in the internet age, courts should balance copyright holders’ interests with user rights. CanLII and the Federation will argue for a large and liberal interpretation of the term “research” as set out in CCH v. Law Society of Upper Canada and in several other subsequent cases. CanLII and the Federation will submit that the Copyright Act and its fair dealing provisions must be interpreted in conjunction with constitutional, administrative, and common law principles guaranteeing access to justice for all persons. Any restriction on access to legal information would violate these fundamental principles. While the ability of the Federation to provide free access to Canadian law through CanLII is not under immediate threat, CanLII and the Federation are concerned about the detrimental impact on access to law and justice that could flow from a narrow interpretation of “research” and from a restrictive approach to fair dealing rights in respect of copyright material. (Posted April 11, 2011) The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada are pleased to announce that Colin Lachance of Ottawa is CanLII’s new President, effective April 11, 2011. The announcement was made jointly by Sonia Poulin, the Chair of the CanLII Board of Directors, and Ronald J. MacDonald, Q.C, President of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. Mr. Lachance obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Alberta, and was admitted in to the Law Society of Alberta in 1998. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Prior to joining CanLII, Mr. Lachance enjoyed a successful career at the virtual intersection of technology, law and public policy. Most recently he was the Director of Federal Government Affairs with a major Canadian telecommunications company. Mr. Lachance has also held the positions of Director of Marketing and Director of Regulatory Affairs with major Canadian communication companies, and served as Director of Telecommunications Regulatory Affairs with the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association (CCTA). CanLII is already a world-leading free resource of legal information, and is well poised to break new ground in supporting access to justice and the interests of all Canadians by providing effective access to our legal heritage” says the new CanLII President. “Working with the CanLII Board and building on strong support from the legal profession, the passionate CanLII user community, and the CanLII technology platform powered by Lexum, I look forward to uncovering and delivering on the opportunities that lie ahead" Colin Lachance added. “Our challenge is to identify the evolving needs of the legal profession, and to serve the public interest by establishing alliances with groups or other institutions pursuing similar goals of free access to Canadian primary legal information not only for the legal profession, but for the public at large” Mr. Lachance said. CanLII is a non-profit organization created and funded by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada on behalf of its 14 member law societies. It was launched in 2000 on a test basis to provide efficient and free access to the growing number of judicial decisions and legislative documents available on the internet. In 2001 CanLII became a permanent, not-for-profit service to support the legal profession in the performance of its duties while providing the public with open and free access to the legal heritage of all Canadian jurisdictions. CanLII… (Posted March 31, 2011) The Federation’s Model Code of Professional Conduct was adopted by the Council of the Federation in October 2009, with the exception of two rules that were referred to special advisory committees for further study. At its meeting of March 17, 2011, the Council of the Federation approved the two outstanding rules. Rule 2.03(3) dealing with the Future Harm Exception to the Rule on Confidentiality is here. Rule 2.04 dealing with Conflicts of Interest is available here. The Council has also referred two issues to the Federation’s Standing Committee on the Model Code of Professional Conduct for further review: the rule that deals with acting against current clients, and the issue of whether to include an exception to the rule on confidentiality where there is imminent risk of substantial financial injury. (Posted on February 23, 2011) When the Federation adopted its Model Code of Professional Conduct in late 2009, work was continuing on the rule on conflicts of interest. A special Advisory Committee established to make recommendations to the Council of the Federation on the conflicts rule submitted its Final Report in June 2010. A copy of that report is available here. (PDF) Following receipt of a response to the Final Report from the Canadian Bar Association (the “CBA”), the Advisory Committee was reconvened to consider the CBA’s response, to conduct such consultations as its members considered necessary and to report back to the Council with its recommendations. The Supplementary Report of the Advisory Committee has now been submitted to the Council and is available here. (PDF) The Council will now consider how to proceed in light of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee.