Legal Professions Regulatory Modernization Project

An update from the Ministry

Legal Professions Regulatory Modernization Project

In March 2022, the Ministry of Attorney General of British Columbia announced a project to modernize the regulatory framework for legal professionals in B.C., including lawyers, notaries and a newly-created category of professionals called licensed paralegals. As part of this project, the Ministry is proposing to:

  • bring all regulated legal professions under a single statute with a single regulator;
  • establish a clear mandate for the regulator that clarifies its duty to promote the public interest; and
  • establish clear scopes of practice for each regulated profession with procedures to allow for expanded scopes as needed.

A key intention underlying this project is to improve the public’s access to legal services. As noted in the Ministry’s September 2022 intentions paper, access to legal services is in part a regulatory issue, because rules around who is allowed to provide what services have an impact on the availability and cost of those services. To be clear, the Ministry does not expect that these proposed reforms will, on their own, “solve” the access to justice crisis. Access to justice, as a whole, includes a number of different facets (including access to courts, access to legal advice, access to timely proceedings and decisions, and support for unrepresented litigants), many of which have no direct tie to regulation. However, modifying the regulatory framework underpinning the provision of services is one of many tools we can use as we continue to seek solutions to the broader crisis.

The concept of a single regulator is not new. The Law Society and Notaries Society have in the past explored the possibility of an amalgamation, on the basis that a single regulator model is better positioned to:

  • collect data on the provision of legal services across B.C., and regulate in a manner that seeks to address any identified gaps;
  • enable the public to better understand their options when looking for help with a legal problem or issue; and
  • align standards between legal professionals providing similar or overlapping services.

The concept of alternative legal service providers is also not new. Many jurisdictions across North America are experimenting with the establishment and regulation of additional categories of skilled legal professionals as a means of offering more options for the public. The amendments contemplated by the Ministry will ensure the regulator is equipped to effectively regulate not only lawyers, notaries and licensed paralegals, but will also ensure the regulator has the flexibility it will need to respond to the continued (and rapid) evolution of the legal services marketplace.

The Ministry’s intentions paper, published in September 2022, was intended as a vehicle for feedback on its contemplated reforms, and we wish to thank everyone who took the time to provide their submissions. Though change of this magnitude is often accompanied by concerns, it also opens the door for new and exciting opportunities. The input we received, and continue to receive, from regulators, associations, individual legal professionals, Indigenous partners, non-profit organizations, members of the public and others, are helping to shape a vision for a renewed, flexible and modernized approach to the regulation of legal services in our province.