If I am a mediator, but not a practicing lawyer in BC, when do I cross the line into the “practice of law”? What does that line look like? Is there a line at all? How does this affect how I practice mediation and serve my clients?
These are thorny questions. They are not new and mediators in BC and abroad have been struggling with them for decades.
Over the years, the Law Society of BC has received complaints that mediators have crossed the line and, in some cases, has sought ‘undertakings’ from these mediators that they will change their activities and in other cases has applied to the Supreme Court for an injunction prohibiting that mediator from engaging in the practice of law.
Mediate BC’s Rosters include mediators from a wide variety of backgrounds and we celebrate this diversity and the range of services that are available to BC citizens to resolve their disputes. Mediate BC wants to support Roster mediators by helping to clarify what the “practice of law” means to them and how to avoid a Law Society complaint.
We are pleased to advise that the Law Society of BC has recently released an “Information Bulletin” entitled the “Unauthorized practice of law” which tackles this issue directly.
The bulletin highlights the situations involving particular risk:
- Advising mediation participants on the law or their legal rights
- Drafting enforceable contracts (including advice on how to structure their agreement)
While this bulletin is helpful, we see it as only the first step of a dialogue, first with the BC mediation community, and then with the Law Society of BC. Mediation is a key part of an effective access to justice strategy and the Law Society of BC supports the creation of new categories of “legal service providers” (regulated by the Law Society). So an important additional question needs to be addressed: How, and to what extent, can BC mediators who are not practicing lawyers provide services to the public that would, under the current definition, be considered the “practice of law”?
Mediate BC is organizing a community dialogue process over the next several months to discuss the Information Bulletin and these other important questions. We are very keen to obtain your input and ideas. Please watch for more information about dates/times/locations for these sessions.
Kari D. Boyle
Executive Director, Mediate BC