The Federation of Law Societies of Canada is planning to introduce complete mobility for lawyers in the country and do away with the provincial jurisdictions.
At the federation's annual meeting this month, it will start a process aimed at allowing lawyers to practise throughout the country rather than just in their home province. The country is organised on a provincial basis. Current protocol allows lawyers to work out of their home province on up to 10 legal matters for not more than 20 days in any 12-month period. President of the federation Abraham Feinstein said that the time has come for a change. "I think change is necessary for a lot of reasons," he said. "One is that there are a lot of national law firms, so lawyers are beginning to practise across the country. Another is that technology is breaking down borders and there are going to be more international lawyers crossing international borders." The provincial attitudes in the country, which mirror those of the US, have driven a flood of Canadian mergers to create multijurisdictional firms. In December, Fraser Milner merged with Byers Casgrain to create a 465-lawyer top-five firm, and in February last year, a tripartite merger formed another top player, bringing together Toronto's Fasken Campbell Godfrey, Montreal's Martineau Walker and Vancouver's Russell & DuMoulin to form Fasken Martineau DuMoulin (The Lawyer, 6 December 2000). Meetings, beginning on 16 August, will start the process of doing away with the restrictions. Four western provinces - British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba - have introduced a rule allowing lawyers to practise in any of the four provinces for six months of the year. Feinstein hopes the whole country can mirror that. He said: "I hope that the next step to come out of this is to set up a national task force with at least three committees, one to look at national rules of professional conduct and two to look at the insurance and compensation funds issues." Compensation funds are the funds held by law societies to deal with professional indemnity claims. Feinstein said that Canada is in an ideal position to deal with the mobility issue because it is small and does not require legislation - each law society governs the legal profession in its own jurisdiction. He hopes there will be freedom of movement within two years.