The Law Society, Bar Associations and Law Foundation (Script 431)

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

The legal profession in BC is closely involved with various organizations. These organizations and their roles can be confusing. This script explains 3 key organizations—the Law Society of BC, the Canadian Bar Association, and the Law Foundation. It also explains what they do and how to contact them.

The Law Society of BC

The Law Society is the governing body for the legal profession in BC. Located in Vancouver, its main duty, under the Legal Profession Act, is to regulate the legal profession in the public interest. A Board of 31 directors, called Benchers, governs the Law Society. The Board consists of 25 elected lawyers and 6 appointed non-lawyers (called lay-Benchers). The lawyer Benchers are elected by other lawyers and serve 2-year terms. They represent districts across BC. The 6 lay-Benchers are appointed by the BC provincial government to represent the public interest in all Law Society decisions. The senior Bencher is the President of the Law Society.

What does the Law Society do?

The Law Society works to ensure that lawyers do their work properly and that the public is well served by lawyers who are honourable, competent, and independent. It sets and enforces standards for licensing, competence, education, ethics, professional conduct, and discipline. The Law Society also sets the qualifications to become a lawyer and to practise law in BC. Only members of the Law Society can practise law in BC, though lawyers from other provinces may practise in BC temporarily. The Law Society recently started a mandatory continuing professional development program. All practicing members must complete a certain number of hours of both educational and ethical courses.

The Law Society deals with complaints from the public about lawyers' conduct. Most complaints result from misunderstandings. In some cases, the Law Society holds a hearing into a lawyer's conduct. All Law Society hearings are open to the public. If the hearing finds the lawyer guilty of professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming, or a breach of the Legal Profession Act or Law Society rules, the Law Society may reprimand, fine, or suspend the lawyer for months or years. It can also put conditions on the lawyer. And for serious misconduct, the Society can disbar a lawyer, meaning that the lawyer can’t practise law.

The Law Society requires lawyers to carry liability insurance to protect clients who suffer financial loss because of their lawyer's negligence. It also has a fund to pay clients who lose money because their lawyer steals trust money.

To contact the Law Society

Call 604.669.2533 in the lower mainland, or 1.800.903.5300 elsewhere in BC.

The Canadian Bar Association

The Canadian Bar Association, or CBA, is a voluntary national organization that promotes the interests of the legal profession and promotes law reform. The BC Branch of the CBA helps its lawyer members in BC stay current in their areas of practice. Lawyers with similar professional interests meet regularly and exchange ideas and information. Unlike the Law Society, the CBA does not license or regulate lawyers.

There are also local bar associations in most BC cities and towns. They are voluntary organizations concerned with local matters affecting their lawyer members.

With funding from the Law Foundation (described below), which collects the interest from lawyers’ trust accounts, the BC Branch of the CBA provides two public service programs:

  • Dial-A-Law provides free legal information on more than 130 topics. Scripts are available in English, Chinese and Punjabi and accessible by internet and the telephone (English and Chinese only). Call 604.687.4680 in the lower mainland or 1.800.565.5297 elsewhere in BC.
  • the Lawyer Referral Service provides the names and telephone numbers of lawyers in your area who will give you up to a half-hour consultation for $25 plus tax. Call 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in BC.

To contact the CBA BC Branch

Call 604.687.3404 in the lower mainland or 1.888.687.3404 elsewhere in BC.

The Law Foundation of British Columbia

The Law Foundation is a non-profit entity, created by law in 1969. It receives and distributes the interest on clients' funds held in lawyers' pooled trust accounts. All interest earned on these accounts goes to the Law Foundation. The small amounts earned by the funds of many clients held for a short time in their lawyers’ trust accounts add up to a substantial income for the Law Foundation. The Foundation uses this money for legal education, legal research, legal aid, law reform, and law libraries. Dial-A-Law is one of the legal education programs that the Law Foundation funds.

To contact the Law Foundation

Call 604.688.2337.

[updated March 2018]

The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Steven Gjukich and edited by John Blois.

© Copyright 2018, Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch. Dial-A-Law is a registered trademark owned by Canadian Bar Association British Columbia Branch, a non-profit membership corporation.

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