THE ADVOCATE 379
VOL. 76 PART 3 MAY 2018
LAW FIRM REGULATION:
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
By Steven McKoen
It is easy to think of the Law Society as just a regulator, in the business
of setting rules and enforcing them. The Law Society does
more than that, though. We support individual lawyers through
practice advisors, promote continuing professional development
and provide practical training. Regulating the profession is an important
function because the public has to be confident that lawyers who transgress
professional standards are properly sanctioned. But our sole focus cannot
be an “after-the-fact” model that only reacts to events that have already happened.
While sanctioning someone for a transgression after it has taken
place is important, it would be better for everyone involved if the transgression
had never occurred in the first place.
Law firm regulation is the next part of the Law Society’s continuing effort
to get out in front of issues before they become problems. In addition to regulating
the conduct of individual lawyers under the Law Society Rules and
the Code of Professional Conduct for British Columbia, we intend to shift more
of our focus to supporting law firms with resources and guidance about how
to avoid problems that commonly lead to discipline violations. This proactive
approach to regulation is increasingly the direction that legal regulators
elsewhere in the Commonwealth are taking. The idea is for the
regulator to provide resources to help law firms meet professional standards.
Providing that support is what the Law Society’s law firm regulation
initiative is all about.
WHY LAW FIRM REGULATION?
In 2011, Adam Dodek, now dean of the faculty of law at the University of
Ottawa, wrote a paper called “Regulating Law Firms in Canada”.1 He commented
that the question was not “why should law firms be regulated?” but
“why do they largely escape regulation?”
Central to his argument is that, particularly when extended beyond a few
lawyers, firms create their own distinct cultures that have a considerable
effect on the way that the lawyers within the firm practise law. Firms are at