Several organizations play roles overseeing and supporting the legal profession in British Columbia. Learn how between them, they regulate lawyers, promote the interests of lawyers, and support access to justice.
Understand the legal framework
The Law Society of BC is the governing body for the legal profession in British Columbia. Under the Legal Profession Act, its duty is to protect the public interest in the administration of justice. A board of directors, called benchers, governs the Law Society. The board consists of 25 elected lawyers and six appointed non-lawyers (called lay benchers). The lawyer benchers are elected to represent districts across BC.
Protecting the public
The Law Society works to ensure that lawyers do their work properly and that the public is well served by lawyers who are honourable, competent and independent. It sets and enforces standards for licensing, competence, education, ethics, and professional conduct. The Law Society also sets the qualifications to become a lawyer and to practise law in BC.
The Law Society requires lawyers to carry liability insurance to protect clients who suffer financial loss because of their lawyer’s negligence. It also has a fund to pay clients who lose money because their lawyer steals trust money.
Dealing with complaints
The Law Society deals with complaints from the public about lawyers’ conduct. In some cases, the Law Society holds a hearing into a lawyer’s conduct. All Law Society hearings are open to the public. If the hearing finds the lawyer guilty of professional misconduct or a breach of the rules or laws governing lawyers, the Law Society may reprimand, fine or suspend the lawyer. It can also put conditions on the lawyer. And for serious misconduct, the Law Society can disbar a lawyer, meaning that the lawyer can’t practise law.
To contact the Law Society, visit lawsociety.bc.ca, or call 604-669-2533 in the Lower Mainland or 1-800-903-5300 elsewhere in BC.
The Canadian Bar Association, or CBA, is a voluntary national organization that promotes the interests of the legal profession and promotes law reform. The British Columbia Branch of the CBA helps its lawyer members in BC stay current in their areas of practice. Lawyers with similar professional interests meet regularly and exchange information and ideas. Unlike the Law Society, the CBA does not license or regulate lawyers. To contact the BC Branch of the CBA, visit cbabc.org, or call 604-687-3404 in the Lower Mainland or 1-888-687-3404 elsewhere in BC.
Local bar associations
There are also local bar associations in most cities and towns in British Columbia. They are voluntary organizations concerned with local matters affecting their lawyer members.
The Law Foundation of BC is a non-profit organization, created by law in 1969. It receives and distributes the interest on clients’ funds held in lawyers’ pooled trust accounts. The Foundation uses this money to fund programs and projects throughout BC that benefit the public in the areas of legal education, legal research, legal aid, law reform, and law libraries. These initiatives advance a just society and the public’s access to justice. Dial-A-Law is one of the legal education programs that the Foundation funds.
To contact the Law Foundation of BC, visit lawfoundationbc.org or call 604-688-2337.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in March 2018
Time to read: 3 minutes