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B.C., Alberta law societies make new moves in response to COVID-19

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 @ 1:33 PM | By Ian Burns


The law societies of British Columbia and Alberta have offered some new guidance to the profession in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to issuing notices alongside provincial courts regarding commissioning of affidavits, the Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) has extended the trust report filing requirement for law firms with the period ending Dec. 31, 2019. Firms will now have until April 30 to submit their report.

The law society’s current application forms for enrolment, call and admission and reinstatement, require that the applicant make a solemn declaration before a notary public or commissioner that the information is true and that the declaration has the same force and effect as if made under oath. With recent announcements encouraging social distancing, the law society recognizes that accommodations must be made. As a result, until further notice the law society will accept application forms that have been sworn using video technology. The application should include a notation that the declaration was sworn in such a manner. If someone has questions, they can e-mail the Member Services department at memberinfo@lsbc.org.

The law society is also asking the government to consider taking action to suspend statutory limitation periods, and to do so retroactively to the date of the declaration of the public health emergency in B.C. March 18. It is also strongly encouraging law firms and lawyers to transition to work at home protocols. Lawyers who work remotely should take steps to ensure that all of the key information that they require is accessible and current. If a lawyer must meet a client, steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 recommended by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and others include frequent hand washing, increased environmental cleaning, maintaining one to two metres of physical or social distancing from others and encouraging employees or others to stay at home if they are sick or at risk of serious illness.

The Law Society of Alberta has suspended its lawyer referral service at the present time; however, prior to impacts of COVID-19, plans were in place to move the service in-house to the law society. This change will take effect on March 31.