New National Mobility Agreement bridges common law and civil law traditions

(Oct. 22, 2013)  An agreement that allows Canadian lawyers easier mobility across all provincial jurisdictions regardless of whether they are trained in the Canadian common law or civil law tradition, has been signed by all provincial law societies. Representatives from each provincial regulator signed the agreement during the Annual Conference of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, held October 17-19, 2013 in St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador.

The President of the Federation, Gérald R. Tremblay, Q.C., told those attending the signing ceremony that the new mobility agreement was a form of declaration of something that had been known for so long by so many in the profession – “there are more similarities in legal training and in daily practice in Canada’s two legal traditions of common and civil law, than there are differences.”

National mobility is at the heart of several national standards initiatives undertaken by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada on behalf of the law societies, including in the areas of admission to the profession, discipline and professional ethics.

“You might ask why national mobility is so important today” Mr. Tremblay added. “The very essence of Canada is on display in a way that has never been seen before. Tonight, we formally join hands across two great legal traditions that are at the foundation of Canada’s system of justice – the common law and the civil law traditions. “

The previous mobility arrangement with Quebec set up in 2010 created a Canadian Legal Advisor regime which permitted limited practice rights for lawyers transferring between Quebec and the other provinces.” That agreement only allowed transferring members of the profession to practice in areas of federal law, the law of their home jurisdiction, and public international law.

The new agreement removes all such restrictions and maintains the existing principle that lawyers only practice in areas of law for which they are competent to do so.  “Especially with the globalization of markets, it was important for the law societies of Canada to allow lawyers to move freely and practise across Canada without any barriers” the Federation President told those attending the signing ceremony.
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The new National Mobility Agreement was ratified by the provincial law societies following adoption in principle earlier this year. The terms of the new mobility agreement were first proposed by the Bâtonnier of Quebec in 2012, Nicolas Plourde. The details of the agreement were then fully developed by a committee of the Federation after a complete analysis of mobility issues.

Implementing the new agreement could take up to a year, as each provincial law society formally adopts the terms and conditions in their by-laws or regulations. In Quebec, the changes will first require approval of the Office of Professions of Quebec, which oversees all self-regulating professions in the province, and will require approval from the Quebec government. Pending implementation, the existing mobility rules remain in force.

A similar agreement that would extend mobility arrangements between Quebec and the three law societies in the northern territories is expected to be concluded in 2014.