Law Society Pilots New Approach for Practice Assessments

October 18, 2017

We routinely encourage lawyers to focus on what they do best – practicing law – and to engage experts with the skills and experience to address other aspects of their practice. For example, to hire a bookkeeper rather than attempting to do it themselves.

Until now, the model that the Law Society has used for practice assessments was to send two lawyers – a staff lawyer and someone recruited from the private bar – to spend a full-day with a lawyer referred to us from the disciplinary stream or by other means.

In addition to talking about the lawyer’s files, clients and practice area, these assessment teams also address non-legal issues like the lawyer’s computer network and security, human resources, marketing and financial planning.

We are enhancing our approach to practice assessments to focus our lawyer-assessors on legal issues while adding subject-matter experts (SME’s) to assist with other practice-related issues.

To make this happen, we have engaged experts in IT/computers, accounting, financial planning, business planning, communications & marketing, coaching and human resources. This list may grow as we encounter other needs.

After the meeting, the SME will share their observations with the staff lawyer who will incorporate them into the assessment report.

The use of SMEs will be limited to assessments in the Calgary region only until we do an evaluation of the Calgary trial. If the results are positive, we hope to extend the use of SME’s to practice assessments conducted across the province.

Just like our lawyer-assessors, SMEs will be designated as members of assessment teams under s.58 of the Legal Profession Act for them to discuss matters freely with the lawyer. Each SME will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of their involvement.

The Law Society will pay for the SME’s first meeting with a lawyer. If they recommend further steps requiring expert involvement, the lawyer is welcome to retain them or any other professional they prefer. Everything after their first meeting will be the lawyer’s responsibility. The lawyer is not bound to use the SME provided by the Law Society.

We hope to make the assessment process as helpful as possible to the lawyers we assess and support meaningful improvements in their practices.