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2018 NSBS Annual Report now available online

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The Society's 2018 Annual Report and Financial Statements are now available on the website. Visit http://nsbs.org/annual-reports.

The documents were presented at the Society’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Professional Development Program, held June 16 at the Schulich School of Law in Halifax.  

“This Council year can be summed up in one phrase: transition and transformation,” Past President Julia Cornish QC said in her year-end report.

Ms. Cornish covered leadership changes, an expanded public voice at the Council table, and the ongoing process of “learning to apply an equity lens to our decisions as the Society’s governing body.” She also emphasized the significant progress this past year in addressing the “life cycle of a lawyer” as the new regulatory model takes shape, such as:

  • the requirement that all new law firms, including sole practitioners, register with NSBS before delivering legal services to the public, as of January 2, 2018;
  • the new focus on legal services support, to assist lawyers and firms as they self-assess and measure how they are doing in having 10 elements in place that ensure they have the infrastructure for ethical legal practice; and
  • the new regulation requiring that all lawyers in private practice maintain a written succession plan, to ensure their clients are not unduly impacted when a lawyer retires or leaves practice.

“The problem of one lawyer is the problem of all lawyers,” said Ms. Cornish. “A successful claim against one of our colleagues impacts all our insurance rates. When a receiver is appointed after a lawyer dies without a succession plan, all lawyers are at risk of higher fees. While there will always be a cost to self-regulation, a principled focus on supporting lawyers in their practices should result in fewer expensive problems down the line.”

Read Ms. Cornish’s full report in the 2018 NSBS Annual Report. The 52-page document also includes reports from Executive Director Tilly Pillay QC, the Equity & Access Office, Public Representatives and several committees, plus detailed updates on professional responsibility, admissions and credentialing activity.

More highlights from the 2017-2018 year:

EXCELLENCE IN REGULATION AND GOVERNANCE

  • New regulations under the Legal Profession Act came into force on January 2, 2018, advancing our new model of legal services regulation; they reflect the changing nature of legal services provision and shift the regulatory focus from individual lawyers to law firms, where appropriate.
  • Core to the new model is the requirement that all firms have a management system for ethical legal practice in place, and self-assess their system every three years. The self-assessment process will start rolling out later this year, with updated technology and online resources. 
  • Consultations continue with government and in-house lawyers to develop a self-assessment tool and program customized to meet their unique ethical and practice considerations.
  • Restorative approaches now used when we receive expressions of concern about a lawyer are resulting in earlier resolution, with fewer matters elevated to the level of ‘complaints’ and both parties more satisfied at the end of the experience.
  • Trust account oversight moved to the Finance and Administration group. The new Trust Assurance Program is risk-based and more proactive with an educational focus in handling violations and non-compliance with trust account regulations. All new practices must be approved to operate a trust account, and will receive educational audits within their first year of operation to provide additional support and guidance.
  • Significant internal restructuring laid the groundwork for the new regulatory model, with hiring of new skill sets: Officer of Early Resolution, Trust Assurance Auditor, and in the areas of human resources, governance support and legal services support; recruitment continues for General Counsel and a paralegal.
  • Technology improvements:
    1. We are streamlining and improving processes with a major revamp of the membership database and member web portal; a new case management system to improve tracking of PR matters; online complaint system to permit electronic filing; OnBoard management software for Council and Committees.  
    2. The NSBS Guide for New Lawyers joined a growing collection of online manuals, guidelines, checklists and other resources.
    3. We continue to improve and simplify annual reporting requirements for practising lawyers.

IMPROVING THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE

  • Angela Simmonds joined NSBS on June 11 as Equity and Access Manager, bringing considerable skills and experience to our strategic priorities relating to equity, diversity, inclusion and access.  
  • The Society continues to promote awareness of its new Equity and Diversity Standard, added in 2017 to the Professional Standards in Law Office Management.
  • Through our new model of legal services regulation, we require all lawyers and firms to reflect regularly on how they are “committed to improving diversity, inclusion and substantive equality, and ensuring freedom from discrimination in the delivery of legal services and the justice system”.
  • The online Equity Portal continues to grow, assisting lawyers and firms in building cultural competence and equity strategies with training videos, toolkits, model policies, a reference library and more. nsbs.libguides.com/equityportal
  • Cultural competence education continues as part of the Society’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Council and staff participated in a KAIROS Blanket Exercise, led by Mi’kmaw Elders Debbie Eisan and Billy Lewis, and a TRC workshop led by lawyer and professor Patti Doyle-Bedwell. We provide cultural competence training to articled clerks in the Skills Course and require all practising lawyers to include it in their annual CPD plans.
  • The Society supports new Mi’kmaq clerks through the Ku’TawTinu: Shared Articling Initiative with the Schulich School of Law.
  • The Society launched new Guidelines for Lawyers: Supporting Trans* and Gender-variant Clients, Colleagues and Employees on July 20 during Pride Week activities, which included a keynote by Judge Kael McKenzie of Manitoba, Canada’s first self-identified transgender judge.
  • Community engagement and stakeholder collaboration drive the Society’s access to justice work through local and national A2J networks such as the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.
  • The Society’s #TalkJustice approach to public engagement was adopted for broader application by the province’s Access to Justice Coordinating Committee and continues to evolve.