B.C. articling rule changes about access to justice

Articling students in British Columbia can now act more lawyerly.

Gavin HumeAs a result of the Law Society of British Columbia’s new Rule 2-32.01, articling students can now provide the same legal services as lawyers under supervision of a principal or practising lawyer.

Gavin Hume, president of the law society, says the rule was created to address the issue of access to justice. “The main reason is that it provides law firms with an opportunity to provide a more economical service to their clients. The student presumably would be charged out at a lower rate and as a result the client would be charged a lower fee.

“So it’s very much tied to the issue that we read about so often and is obviously a major concern, which is access to legal services.”

He says it’s also an opportunity to provide students with better training and broaden their experiences.

The rule states that students are permitted to appear as counsel, under supervision, for “an appeal in the Court of Appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada; a civil or criminal jury trial; [and] a proceeding on an indictable offence, unless the offence is within the absolute jurisdiction of a provincial court judge.”

However, students are not allowed to appear as counsel in complex litigation or act as commissioners for oaths.

It says the supervising lawyer is responsible for ensuring the student is: “competent to provide the services offered, supervised to the extent necessary in the circumstances, and properly prepared before acting in any proceeding or other matter.” The supervising lawyer is also liable for any mistakes made by the student.

Hume says the law society is still liaising with the B.C. courts about whether they are going to embrace this new rule because “access to the courts is very much under the control of the courts.” He notes the LSBC has had preliminary discussions with the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Provincial Court and hopes to have a more formal discussion on the matter very soon.

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