The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is pleased to announce that Thomas G. Conway has been elected President for 2014-2015. Mr. Conway is a partner at Conway Baxter Wilson LLP in Ottawa, where his practice is in civil and commercial litigation. He received his LL.B. from the University of Ottawa in 1987 and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1989. “The Federation’s role and responsibilities have evolved very rapidly over the last decade” says the new Federation President. “Now, the profession is also undergoing very profound changes the likes of which none of us can recall having seen before. Legal education is also undergoing significant and profound change, and the regulatory world is not immune to the changes in the profession we regulate.” The Federation, Mr. Conway notes, has met the challenges of change before. “When you look at the distance that we have covered in the last ten years, you get a better perspective as to where we are in our development as a federation. Ten years ago there was no such thing as a national mobility agreement, or a National Requirement. There was no CanLII, and there was no model code of conduct.” These are all major accomplishments, the Federation President notes, that are the result of consultation and collaboration with Canada’s law societies. Mr. Conway was appointed a Council member by the Law Society of Upper Canada in November 2007, and has served on the Federation Executive as Vice-President. He was a member of the Federation’s Task Force on the Common Law Degree and chair of the Implementation Committee. He has also been a member of the Federation’s Litigation Committee that advises Council and the law societies on Federation interventions before the Supreme Court of Canada. Prior to becoming President of the Federation, Mr. Conway served two terms as Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the most senior position of the largest law society in Canada. He has served on a number of committees and was co-chair of the Retention of Women in Private Practice Working Group, which developed ground-breaking initiatives to support women in the legal profession. He also served as chair of the LSUC Professional Development and Competence Committee, chair of the society’s Inter-Jurisdictional Mobility Committee and chair of the LSUC Articling Task Force. Mr. Conway was also an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Law at the University… The Legal Futures Initiative report issued by the Canadian Bar Association is a reminder that change in the legal profession is profound, and already underway, the President of the Federation of Law Societies says. “A significant number of recommendations deal directly with the regulatory environment and are a call to action by the Federation and the law societies” Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard said in her speech to the CBA Legal Conference in St. John’s. “The challenges of change are not something that can be dismissed as a one year wonder. I am certain that the Report will add enormous value to the reflections that the Federation and Canada’s law societies have been addressing for several years.” The Federation President noted as an example, that the regulation of entities and alternative business structures are already high on the agendas of a number of law societies. “The addition of the CBA’s perspective in the Legal Futures Initiative report will be an important part of the discussion about how law societies can best regulate the profession in the public interest.” Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard said the Federation and Canada’s law societies have been dealing with change for some time now in a number ways, but one key aspect stands out. “The days are long behind us where regulating the legal profession is simply a provincial or territorial endeavour. It is now a national project.” She explained that legal regulation in Canada is far different today than it was 10 years ago. In the last decade, all law societies have decided to recognize the credentials, indeed the competence and integrity of every member of the legal profession no matter where in Canada they were first admitted to the bar without any additional training or evaluation. “So it begs the question, if any lawyer can move anywhere and have his or her licence recognized by any law society, is there any principled reason why the regulation of lawyers should be approached differently from one jurisdiction to the next?” “The answer to that question, of course, is no, there is no principled reason for any substantial variation in how the public is protected by legal regulators anywhere in Canada” the Federation President added. “And if you accept that answer, then the next question is how exactly do the law societies ensure there is consistency in legal regulation? We have no illusions. Arriving at consistent approaches with our Canadian federation is… The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has launched its first public consultation on draft amendments to the Model Code of Professional Conduct. The proposed amendments have been drafted by the Federation’s Standing Committee on the Model Code of Professional Conduct, which was created in 2011 to monitor changes in the law and to recommend improvements over time as the Model Code is implemented. “The Model Code of Professional Conduct has been implemented in a number of law societies and is under review in the others,“ explains Federation President Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard, Q.C. “The Model Code is a living document that must remain contemporary and reflect changes in the law.” The proposed amendments include changes to eliminate language that stigmatizes those suffering from mental health problems or that could be interpreted as discriminating against equity seeking groups. In addition, the amendments clarify a lawyer’s duty to report to the law society the conduct of another lawyer that jeopardizes the interests of that lawyer’s clients, simplify rules that prohibit lawyers from coaching or tampering with witnesses, add guidance on communicating with expert witnesses, and clarify a lawyer’s obligation to inform clients and the professional liability insurer of any errors or omissions. The consultation period ends November 24, 2014. Submissions can be addressed to the Federation online at email@example.com. The Federation of Law Societies of Canada expresses its deep concern over suggestions made by the government that Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin acted inappropriately by attempting to bring to the attention of the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice issues relating to the eligibility of potential nominees to the Supreme Court of Canada. Federation President, Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard, Q.C., said “the Chief Justice of Canada is more than a member of the judiciary. She is the head of Canada’s judicial branch of government and as such has an entirely legitimate role in consulting with the executive when there are issues involving the judicial branch that warrant the government’s attention. Communications of this sort during the consultation phase of the selection process for Supreme Court justices are a normal and appropriate feature of how our democratic institutions work. “ “Any suggestion that the head of the judiciary has acted in a way that is inappropriate when the facts indicate otherwise, risks diminishing public confidence in our democratic institutions. Canada’s justice system is the envy of the world. It is vital that our judicial institutions continue to be respected, in Canada and abroad.” The Federation is the national coordinating body of the 14 provincial and territorial law societies that regulate Canada’s 100,000 lawyers, Quebec’s 4,000 notaries and Ontario’s 4,000 paralegals in the public interest. It is a leading voice on issues of national and international importance relating to the administration of justice and the rule of the law. Canada’s law societies have signed an updated agreement that covers permanent mobility rules for Canada’s three northern territories, ensuring easier transfers by members of the legal profession between the territories and Quebec. The signing ceremony with representatives of all of Canada's legal regulators was held April 3, 2014 in Saskatchewan’s historic Government House. The Territorial Mobility Agreement 2013 follows the signing in October 2013 of a protocol agreed to by the provincial law societies that breaks down remaining barriers to seamless mobility of the legal profession between Canada’s two legal traditions, the civil law in the province of Quebec, and the common law in the other parts of Canada. Federation President Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard, Q.C., said the signing of the Territorial Mobility Agreement 2013 reinforces what many in the profession have been saying for a long time "There are more similarities in legal training and in daily practice in these two legal traditions than there are differences. All law societies now acknowledge that crossing provincial and territorial borders should be as easy for a lawyer moving from Montreal to Iqaluit as it is for one who moves from Regina to Winnipeg.” The National Mobility Agreement 2013 covers both permanent and temporary mobility rules and was signed by the provincial law societies in a similar ceremony in October 2013 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The Territorial Mobility Agreement 2013 deals with permanent mobility rules only, in keeping with the existing arrangements with the territories that have been in effect since 2006. "These occasions remind us why the Federation exists in the first place. One might ask, in this new world of mobility of the legal profession, whether there are any principled reasons why there should be local differences in approach to legal regulation. The answer of course, is no" Ms. Bélanger-Richard told those present for the signing ceremony. "That is why national mobility is the driving force behind all Federation’s national initiatives, which are designed or developed to achieve consistency across Canada in how law societies fulfill their regulatory functions. The public should expect no less.” As with the National Mobility Agreement 2013, the Territorial Mobility Agreement 2013 will go into effect once fully implemented by the provincial and territorial law societies. The Council of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada has adopted new national standards established to raise the bar on how law societies carry out discipline functions, and how complaints are handled. The National Discipline Standards were adopted at the Council's meeting April 3, 2014 in Regina, Saskatchewan. The National Discipline Standards address fairness, transparency, public participation and timeliness in how discipline work is carried out. A copy of the standards is available here. The standards have been referred to the law societies for adoption and implementation effective January 1, 2015. The Federation Council also established a new Standing Committee on National Discipline Standards with the mandate to monitor law society implementation of and compliance with the standards. The approval of the National Discipline Standards follows completion of a two year pilot project involving thirteen law societies to test the standards In the course of the pilot project virtually all law societies have experienced improvements in performance. Federation President Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard, Q.C., said “I am pleased to report that the Federation Council has adopted national discipline standards designed to inspire public confidence in this important aspect of law society work across Canada.” The new National Discipline Standards are intended to be aspirational, as it is recognized that not every law society will be able to meet every standard by reason of local regulations or otherwise.