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Legal Aid Governance Agreement
In 2018, the Government of Alberta, Legal Aid Alberta and the Law Society of Alberta signed a new Legal Aid Governance Agreement. This agreement means thousands more Albertans will be eligible for legal aid. It is one of the most progressive legal aid agreements in the country. This agreement reflects the collaboration among the three parties and the shared commitment to ensure that vulnerable Albertans are assured their most fundamental legal rights.
Law Firm Management Assessment Tool
The Law Society collaborated with the law societies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to consider changes to the regulatory model for the legal profession.
A coordinated pilot of the Law Firm Management Assessment Tool was started among law firms in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to test the functionality and usefulness of the tool in improving practice management.
A total of 53 law firms participated with 16 firms in both Alberta and Manitoba and 21 firms in Saskatchewan. The firms were of varying sizes, ranging from sole practices to large firms, and represented the legal community geographically as well.
Two evaluations were conducted at the end of the pilot: a quantitative evaluation of a survey that law firms were requested to complete and a qualitative evaluation of comments and feedback from participating law firms. The Prairie Law Societies are in the process of discussing the evaluations and the next steps to take.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’s Calls to Action
Led by our Indigenous Initiatives Liaison, the Law Society provided several learning and engagement opportunities throughout 2018, including lunch and learns, field trips, and free programs for lawyers focused on working with indigenous peoples, indigenous governance and consultation.
Work will continue on these programs in 2019 to ensure that we remain responsive to reconciliation and the TRC calls to action.
The Law Society is always looking for ways to educate, support and engage with Alberta’s lawyers, the public and key stakeholders.
Our success as a regulator flows directly from trust in our actions. This includes promoting an understanding of our work, as well as being a trusted advisor on important issues affecting the profession and the public we serve.
Providing an opportunity for feedback and information sharing with the profession, the public and other key stakeholders gives the Law Society the information necessary to make the best decisions.
Legal Profession Act
The 2017-2018 work related to the amendments to the Legal Profession Act resulted in some great feedback that has positively impacted the way the Law Society engages lawyers, the public and stakeholders. We saw the value of identifying issues up front through pre-engagement with key stakeholders. This allowed us to gauge the issues and identify the right questions to ask before reaching out to a wider audience.
While changes to the Act did not reach the legislative agenda in 2018, the engagement work done around the Act was critical and we will continue to pursue modernization of the Act to reflect legal service delivery in the 21st century.
The Law Society began exploring the possibility of a part-time membership fee. Our exploration of part-time fees is motivated by equity, diversity and inclusion goals and is also driven by access to justice.
Not every lawyer wants to, or is able to, engage in full-time practice. Successful pre-engagement allowed the project team to test the assumptions and information from existing reporting and data.
After reviewing the 2018 survey results of our engagement with the profession about part-time membership fees, the Board approved the introduction of a part-time membership fee pilot program starting in 2020.
Trust Accounting Annual Filings
In 2017, changes were made to improve the Law Society’s Trust Safety program and to increase compliance with annual filing requirements. These changes included:
- Introducing a Designated Filing Date (year-end) of December 31 for all Annual Reports (Law Firm Self-Report, Accountant’s Report or Electronic Data Upload) with a filing due date of March 31 each year; and
- Introducing escalating late filing fees that begin after the March 31 due date, up to a maximum of three months (a total of $1,500 in late fees) and culminating in an administrative suspension of the Responsible Lawyer if the annual reports are not filed on time.
Leading up to the filing deadline, the Law Society held numerous webinars, sent email reminders about the changes and outlined how to file the annual reports. We are pleased to report that more than 90 per cent of firms filed their annual reports by the March 31, 2018 deadline.