What is a lawyer?
A lawyer is a person who has the right to give you advice and help you work through legal issues. A lawyer has the right to engage in the practice of law.
Not everyone has the right to engage in the practice of law – to give you “legal advice” – or to provide legal services. Why? Because the consequences for getting it wrong can be devastating.
Imagine if you give someone legal advice about buying a home, or you help them work through the process of buying a home, but you get it wrong. Now the buyer has no home and is likely out a lot of money. Who does the buyer sue for this mistake? How do they get recompense for their damages?
In order to engage in the practice of law, you need to meet the requirements of BC’s Legal Profession Act:
15 (1) No person, other than a practising lawyer, is permitted to engage in the practice of law, except
(a) a person who is an individual party to a proceeding acting without counsel solely on his or her own behalf,
(b) as permitted by the Court Agent Act,
(c) an articled student, to the extent permitted by the benchers,
(d) an individual or articled student referred to in section 12 of the Legal Services Society Act, to the extent permitted under that Act,
(e) a lawyer of another jurisdiction permitted to practise law in British Columbia under section 16 (2) (a), to the extent permitted under that section,
(f) a practitioner of foreign law holding a permit under section 17 (1) (a), to the extent permitted under that section, and
(g) a lawyer who is not a practising lawyer, to the extent permitted under the rules.
So in order to engage in the practice of law, you must be a lawyer (or fall into one of the few exemptions to this requirement, such as a BC Notary).
What does a lawyer do?
Here are all of the things a lawyer can do under the definitions section of the Legal Profession Act:
“practice of law” includes
(a) appearing as counsel or advocate,
(b) drawing, revising or settling
(i) a petition, memorandum, notice of articles or articles under the Business Corporations Act, or an application, statement, affidavit, minute, resolution, bylaw or other document relating to the incorporation, registration, organization, reorganization, dissolution or winding up of a corporate body,
(ii) a document for use in a proceeding, judicial or extrajudicial,
(iii) a will, deed of settlement, trust deed, power of attorney or a document relating to a probate or a grant of administration or the estate of a deceased person,
(iv) a document relating in any way to a proceeding under a statute of Canada or British Columbia, or
(v) an instrument relating to real or personal estate that is intended, permitted or required to be registered, recorded or filed in a registry or other public office,
(c) doing an act or negotiating in any way for the settlement of, or settling, a claim or demand for damages,
(d) agreeing to place at the disposal of another person the services of a lawyer,
(e) giving legal advice,
(f) making an offer to do anything referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e), and
(g) making a representation by a person that he or she is qualified or entitled to do anything referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e),
but does not include
(h) any of those acts if performed by a person who is not a lawyer and not for or in the expectation of a fee, gain or reward, direct or indirect, from the person for whom the acts are performed,
(i) the drawing, revising or settling of an instrument by a public officer in the course of the officer’s duty,
(j) the lawful practice of a notary public,
(k) the usual business carried on by an insurance adjuster who is licensed under Division 2 of Part 6 of the Financial Institutions Act, or
(l) agreeing to do something referred to in paragraph (d), if the agreement is made under a prepaid legal services plan or other liability insurance program;
But what about BC Notaries?
A BC Notary is a legal professional in BC with special powers, given to them under the Notaries Act.
A BC Notary is one of the few exceptions to the requirement that only lawyers can practice law in BC (see section (j) in the definition of “practice of law” above, under the Legal Profession Act.
Other exceptions to this “lawyers only” requirement are persons who provide legal services for free, the work of public officers in the course of their duty, or the usual business of an insurance adjuster.
Do I need a lawyer?
Not always. Our legal system is designed to allow lay people to conduct their affairs on their own – by representing themselves and their interests.
So how do you know if you need a lawyer?
If you are doing something legal – buying or selling a home, incorporating a company, getting divorced, making a Will – then you should consider using a lawyer (or, where appropriate, a BC Notary), if:
- you are not sure how to do the work
- you have not studied this area of the law, or read any of the important cases dealing with this area of law
- your eyes glaze over when working through legal language
- you don’t have time to train yourself properly in the nuances of this area of law
- you want to be able to access a professional’s errors and omissions insurance if something goes wrong
- your time is better spent on other things
How do I find a lawyer?
You can start by looking for one of our lawyers.
If we don’t provide a legal service you require (for example, criminal defence or litigation services), we would be happy to refer you to a specialist in that area.
Tags: BC Notary, Lawyer, Legal Profession Act, practice of law