Legal Services Regulation – the consultation process

Consultation
Since November 2015, the Society engaged in an extensive consultation process with the profession about transforming regulation in general and specifically, legal entity regulation and the Management System for Ethical Legal Practice (MSELP). This allowed the Executive Director, the Executive Committee and members of Council to engage with lawyers and managers from every type of legal practice: sole practitioners; small, medium and large firms; corporate counsel and public sector legal departments.

The goal was to be as inclusive and comprehensive in this process as possible. Some highlights of what was heard:

  • There is strong support for the direction that Council is taking the Society and recognition that the initiative will allow our regulation to catch up with reality.
  • Most participants welcomed an approach that will see the Society, as the regulator, supporting lawyers in the delivery of enhanced legal services.
  • There was strong support for approaches that are designed to allow lawyers, firms and other legal service providers to reflect on matters in a way that is tailored to their own practices and circumstances. Accordingly, there will be a need for additional tools reflecting the legal practices of solo and small firms and in-house counsel.
  • There is strong support for approaches that will allow legal entities to deliver legal services in whatever way they determine appropriate and through lawyers and other staff in law firms, so long as the standards are the same for all and the duty of supervision and oversight is in place to ensure that non-lawyers who provide legal services are both competent and ethical in providing the services they do.
  • In the MSELP, it is crucial that the standards against which lawyers/law firms assess themselves be clear and based on those that are currently applied to the profession through the Code of Professional Conduct, the Professional Standards, the Regulations and the Common Law.
  • There must be a clear way for lawyers/law firms to report to the Society on matters of compliance distinct from the aspirational self-assessment process.
  • The fact that Nova Scotia is the first law society to specifically recommend this approach was concerning to some. Some expressed concerns about Nova Scotia developing an approach that is not adopted in the rest of the Atlantic region or nationally, and about costs associated with complying with different regulatory regimes and the possible ‘competitive disadvantage’ that would cause.

Next steps
On March 24, 2016, Council approved the creation of a pilot project to evaluate a self-assessment process developed in response to the requirement that all legal entities have a Management System for Ethical Legal Practice (MSELP). The project launched in the fall of 2016 and will continue through the spring of 2017. 

Your questions and comments are welcome and can be directed to Jennifer Pink, Legal Services Support Officer, at jpink@nsbs.org