October 1, 2021
CPD Filing Requirement Suspended for Additional Year 
In February 2020, the Law Society suspended the mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) filing requirement for the profession for the years 2020 and 2021. The suspension was to allow the Law Society time to build a new competence model that will aspire to empower and equip lawyers to provide the best legal services they can to Albertans.

The Lawyer Competence Committee (LCC) was established, in part, to review and revise the CPD program. Work is underway to develop a new competency profile that will establish the foundation for lawyer competence in Alberta. However, the work required to develop the competency profile and to implement a new CPD planning tool is substantial and will not be complete by May 2022. The Benchers have approved an extension to suspend the mandatory CPD filing requirement for an additional year to May 2023.

While the Law Society's goal was to have a new CPD program ready to launch in 2022, we quickly realized more time is needed to build a program that goes beyond setting a minimum standard for competence and offers an enhanced experience for lawyers. We are actively engaging with the profession to develop the competency profile that will serve as the foundation for the new CPD program and planning tool.

For more information on the competency profile and our Indigenous Cultural Competency education requirement, The Path (Law Society of Alberta), visit the Law Society website.
Law Society of Alberta Introduces Innovation Sandbox
On October 1, 2021, the Benchers approved the creation of an Innovation Sandbox, where legal service providers are encouraged to develop innovative models for the delivery of legal services that cannot currently be offered due to existing regulatory requirements.

Changes in technology, the emergence of alternative service providers and an increasingly globalized legal market has changed the legal environment in Alberta and in fact, around the world. As these changes continue to shape the future of the delivery of legal services, law and the lawyers who practise it, accessible and affordable legal services continue to be an unmet need for the public.

The Innovation Sandbox allows the Law Society to support innovators in testing new ideas and models for the delivery of legal services in a controlled environment, with the Law Society providing both guidance and oversight.

That guidance and oversight will be provided by the Law Society’s Innovating Regulation Working Group (IRWG). The IRWG’s mandate is to explore how the Law Society can allow for greater flexibility in its current regulatory framework and minimize regulatory barriers to both encourage and foster innovation in the delivery of legal services in Alberta.

The IRWG is now working to operationalize the Innovation Sandbox in Alberta, with online applications to participate in the Sandbox expected to open in the first quarter of 2022. For more information on the Innovation Sandbox, the application and evaluation process and frequently asked questions, visit the Law Society website.
Amended Rules for Trust Accounts in Effect Jan. 1, 2022
In the October 1, 2021 Board Meeting, the Benchers approved amendments to the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta regarding the approval and management of trust accounts by Alberta lawyers. The amended Rules will go into effect on January 1, 2022. This timing allows lawyers and firms to complete their annual filings for 2021 under the existing Rules to reduce confusion. 

On average, $150 billion dollars flow through Alberta lawyers’ trust accounts annually, with an average daily balance of $2 billion. These funds are divided between nearly 4,000 pooled trust accounts. The considerable amount of funds flowing through Alberta trust accounts highlights the level of risk associated with holding and managing client funds. Lawyers are responsible for managing this risk, and need appropriate controls, processes and oversight mechanisms in place.  

Feedback from lawyers on the current Trust Safety Rules (largely contained within Part 5 of the Rules) indicate that the Rules can be difficult to interpret and navigate.

The effect of Trust Safety rule changes on the practise of law

There is little in the rule changes that should affect the day-to-day operation of most legal practices. These changes are designed to make them easier to understand and follow. 

The enhanced Rules highlight the accountability and oversight required by lawyers for any tasks delegated to firms’ employees. As well, the Rules have been updated to align with modern banking practices and allow lawyers to shift their practices to a less paper-based, more digital environment.  

The changes will not increase the administrative burden placed on Alberta lawyers. If anything, these Rules are intended to reduce the administrative burden by making the Rules easier to follow. Existing reporting obligations for lawyers will remain unchanged with the new Rules. Responsible Lawyers will still have reporting obligations including their annual filings and any additional filings based on the trust account’s lifecycle. 

The flow of the Rules has been reworked to align with the lifecycle of a trust account, ensuring that Responsible Lawyers who are operating a trust account know what steps are required for them to remain in compliance with the Rules based on where they are in the lifecycle. 

For more details, including a breakdown of the lifecycle and frequently asked questions, visit the Law Society website.
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