Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee says changes to the Legal Profession Act have been sought by members of the legal community since 2004. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Act governing Yukon legal profession to get much-needed update

Yukon’s Legal Profession Act is slated to be updated in the fall

A long-awaited update to a piece of Yukon legislation could soon make it easier to complain about wayward lawyers and crack down on who’s allowed to practise law in the territory — and the government wants your input on it.

A survey posted to the Yukon government’s website last week is inviting the public to weigh in on a new version of the Legal Profession Act that the Yukon Liberals will be tabling in the Legislative Assembly this fall. The act, enacted in 2002 and amended a handful of times since, outlines the authority of the Law Society of Yukon, the governing body for lawyers in the territory, as well as other aspects such as fees, proper bookkeeping and professional conduct.

The update, which was part of the Liberals’ election platform, is needed to address changes like the increased mobility of lawyers and the ever-increasing use of technology in the field, Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee said in a phone interview Aug. 22.

“The legal community has been asking for changes to the act as far (back) as 2004 in order for the act to keep pace with the changes in the practice of law and also primarily for the protection of the public,” McPhee, a former president of the Law Society, said.

“…I’m happy that we’re moving forward on it as quickly as we are.”

Among the updates proposed by the Law Society, which published a policy paper on the subject in 2011, are increasing the decision-making power of the society’s executive, removing the need for government approval to pass or amend rules, using a “less prescriptive” approach and establishing separate member categories for lawyers and people who provide more limited legal services like Aboriginal Court Workers or paralegals.

Other proposed changes Yukoners can voice their thoughts on include modernizing the complaints process against members, how to crack down on people practising law without proper credentials, how the society should handle lawyers dealing with mental health or addiction issues and the introduction of random audits to ensure lawyers and law firms are following the rules.

The current government isn’t the first to talk about updating the act but is the first one to actually follow through, Department of Justice communications director Dan Cable said.

“Previous governments had committed to it but it never came forward as a legislative priority for the previous governments. But this government had put in their party platform,” he said.

The survey is available online until Sept. 7 at survey.gov.yk.ca/2017-Legal-Profession-Act-Survey.aspx. Yukoners can also request a physical survey or call (867) 667-3033 to weigh in.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com