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Even before COVID-19, lawyers were increasingly looking at the possibilities and benefits of working remotely.
If you have taken your practice online, do you know where you stand if a case takes you across provincial boundaries? What if you are from another jurisdiction and your online practice takes you into Alberta?
Can you provide legal services across provincial boundaries?
National Mobility Agreement
In the past, with limited exceptions, lawyers could only practise in a given province if they were members of that province’s law society. The result was a fragmented legal system with costly barriers to the delivery of legal services.
In 2002, this changed with the National Mobility Agreement (NMA), an arrangement between law societies “to facilitate temporary and permanent mobility of lawyers between Canadian jurisdictions.”
The NMA has given rise to a comprehensive mobility regime for Canadian lawyers.
The rule limiting legal practice to members of the Alberta bar protects the public against unqualified persons rendering legal services (i.e. against unauthorized practice). This purpose underscores the rules of remote practice, and provides guidance in terms of what is acceptable remote practice.
Lawyers from Other Provinces Working in Alberta
You can practise law in Alberta for up to 100 whole or partial days in a calendar year without becoming a member of the Law Society of Alberta. You are responsible for tracking this time and can be called upon to prove you have not exceeded the maximum.
You may qualify to practise in Alberta under the NMA if you:
- are entitled to practise in another Canadian jurisdiction that is a signatory to the NMA;
- meet the liability insurance and defalcation compensation requirements set out in the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta (which are generally met if you are insured in another NMA jurisdiction);
- are not subject to any conditions, restrictions, conduct or criminal proceedings. If you do, you will need a permit to practice temporarily in Alberta; and
- do not develop an “economic nexus’ in Alberta.”
If you hold a civil law degree, you must contact the Law Society of Alberta before commencing work here.
Practising law in Alberta means engaging in the practice of law while physically in Alberta, or with respect to the law of Alberta while physically outside the province. This includes providing legal services respecting federal jurisdiction in Alberta. Appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada, Federal or Tax Courts, or before a federal administrative tribunal is not providing legal services in the host jurisdiction.
In other words, you may provide legal services “in relation to Alberta” regardless of whether you are physically in the province.
If you advise a client about Alberta law on the telephone, by email or through correspondence from outside of Alberta, you are practising law here.
If you are employed as in-house counsel and provide legal services in relation to Alberta on an occasional basis in the course of your employment, you are practising law here.
You establish an economic nexus in a province when you do something that is inconsistent with the temporary provision of legal services in that jurisdiction. This may occur if you:
- provide legal services in Alberta for more than 100 days in any calendar year or in 10 matters involving 20 days in any 12-month period;
- open an office in Alberta from which you offer legal services to the public. If you belong to a law firm with offices throughout the country, you do not establish an economic nexus simply by practising out of your Alberta office;
- become an Alberta resident under the Income Tax Act;
- operate a trust account or accept trust funds, except as permitted under the Rules; and
- hold yourself out as willing or qualified to practise law in Alberta, except as a visiting lawyer.
You must immediately stop providing legal services and obtain a permit to practise from the Law Society of Alberta. You can request permission to continue to practise pending consideration of your application.
A visiting lawyer must not open or maintain a trust account in Alberta and, in accordance with the Legal Profession Act and the Rules, must promptly:
- remit funds received in trust to their trust account in their home jurisdiction, or
- ensure that the funds are handled by a member of the Law Society of Alberta entitled to practise law in Alberta, in a trust account controlled by that member.
Yes. If you are a visiting lawyer, you must not hold yourself out as willing or qualified to practice law in Alberta, except as a visiting lawyer.
The Law Society of Alberta does not certify lawyers as specialists. If the law society in your home jurisdiction does certify lawyers as specialists, and you are certified in that jurisdiction, you may advertise in media circulated concurrently there and in Alberta that you are a specialist. You must identify the certifying authority or organization in the advertisement.
For more information, read this article.
Your firm name may include the names of individuals currently or formerly entitled to practise law in Canada and in jurisdictions other than Canada.
Lawyers from Alberta Working in Other Provinces
I belong to the Law Society of Alberta. Do I have to join another Canadian law society to work on a case in that jurisdiction?
Generally, being licenced to practise law in one province entitles you to practice in another province, on a temporary basis, without having to join their law society or write transfer exams.
Before working in Québec, contact the Barreau du Québec as special considerations apply there.
If you want to provide temporary legal services in the Territories, contact the appropriate territorial law society to apply for a special appearance certificate.
If you want to practise in another jurisdiction permanently, you may need to transfer to that jurisdiction. To do so, you may be required to meet certain conditions, and in some cases, transfer exams are still required. Contact the law society in question to determine what the requirements are.
Do the Legal Profession Act, Rules of the Law Society of Alberta and Code of Conduct apply to work I perform elsewhere?
As a member of the Law Society of Alberta, you are subject to Alberta’s Legal Profession Act, as well as its Rules and Code. If you become a member of another law society and there is an inconsistency or conflict between the Rules and Code of the two jurisdictions, the Rules of the jurisdiction in which you are practising in that matter will normally prevail. Complaints are generally made in the first instance to the law society in the lawyer’s home jurisdiction. However, the Law Society of Alberta continues to have jurisdiction over you. Disciplinary proceedings by another governing body may form the basis for proceedings in Alberta, and you have an obligation to report the existence of those proceedings to the Law Society of Alberta.
Practising remotely in multiple jurisdictions no longer presents the same challenges as it did in the past. However, different jurisdictions may impose different requirements. It is best to check before taking action. For more information, please see National Mobility FAQs – Alberta Lawyers and National Mobility FAQs – Visitors on the Law Society of Alberta website and contact Customer Service at 403.229.4700 (toll-free 1.800.661.9003).