The Business of Law
by Carman Overholt
Professional services and, in particular, legal services represent an important sector of our economy. Law firms employ tens of thousands of British Columbians. Our firms are significant purchasers of goods and services. We need to ensure that we promote law that will make BC competitive and attractive for the delivery of professional services and in particular legal services.
The CBABC continues to lobby for the elimination of the PST on legal services and the enactment of limited liability partnership legislation. Both of these initiatives will make BC more competitive in the delivery of legal services, and we will continue to identify other legislation that needs to be modernized or changed in order to make BC more competitive and attractive for professional services and business investment generally.
Historically, lawyers have focused on professional and ethical obligations and assumed that their businesses would be successful provided they did good work and worked hard to advance the interests of clients. Given the changes in our society, the nature of client needs, and the expectations of new lawyers, the business of law has changed significantly in recent years.
On March 9, 2002 Provincial Council authorized the creation of a new standing committee of the CBABC, described as the Business of Law Committee. The mandate of the Business of Law Committee will be to identify issues and anticipated changes within the profession and society that impact lawyers and their ability to engage in the business and practice of law. We anticipate that the committee will make recommendations to the Executive Committee and Provincial Council for any responses required to address these issues or changes.
This committee will address issues such as the PST on legal services, MDPs, limited liability partnership legislation, liability insurance, technology and other issues that are important to lawyers.
We held a President’s Forum on the Business of Law on March 8 that brought together representatives of a cross-section of law firms in BC to discuss law firm planning and management. My thanks to Richard Stock of Catalyst Consulting and Diana Dorey of Davis & Company, the co-chair of the program, for their efforts in making available a very informative and interesting forum for discussion among BC lawyers.
The Business of Law Committee will consider the changing nature of the profession and the increasing need for us to reflect carefully on how we operate in order to ensure that we are successful in the practice of law and in operating successful businesses.
The Alberta CBA Mid-Winter Meeting featured a presentation on video messaging that is now available through the Alberta Branch Web site. In this way, the Alberta Branch hopes to make CLE and CBA resources more available to lawyers outside of urban centers. The CBABC is committed to working with CLE and others to ensure that we make important resources available to our members across BC. Technology has great potential for making us more competitive and efficient in how we operate.
Through an extensive consultation and debate of the issues, the CBA resolved a few years ago that lawyers should only be permitted to practice in MDPs if the core values of the profession are properly maintained by MDPs. In light of Enron, it is clear that our consistent defence of our profession and strict adherence to the highest professional and ethical standards will continue to be essential to us in being successful in both the practice and business of law.
This article was published in the April 2002 issue of BarTalk. © 2002 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.