A recent decision of the Court of Appeal of Alberta examines the question of whether the Court can override the prohibition in the Legal Profession Act of Alberta against acting as a barrister in an Alberta court without being a member of any relevant or reciprocating law society or bar.
In Lameman v. Alberta, 2012 ABCA 59, the Plaintiff sought to be represented in court by 6 English barristers. None of them had sought the permission of the Law Society of Alberta to appear, whether temporarily or for one case. Nor had they sought any relaxation of the Law Society’s rules. As a result, there was no regulatory approval for the English lawyers to act in an Alberta court.
The Court of Appeal reviewed the two relevant pieces of legislation, which are Rule 2.23 of the Alberta Rules of Court and section 106 of the Legal Profession Act. The Rule was not applicable because it only relates to note-taking, not a speaking role (known as a “McKenzie friend.” As for s. 106, the provision is quite clear that any non-party who appears in court and gives argument on behalf of a party is caught by the prohibition in the statute.
The Court then considered the argument that unpaid work may be immune from the prohibition. The Court would have nothing of this submission. The Court reviewed the policy and scheme of the Legal Profession Act, which is to set qualifications for lawyers and create a self-governing body to administer the scheme. The overall purpose is to protect the public from incompetent or unethical lawyers. As the Court noted, both rich and poor persons need this protection, and the latter more than the former.
In the result, the Court of Appeal concluded an exemption cannot be given by a judge. Only the Law Society can do so, in accordance with its statutory mandate.
The judgment goes on at some length about the importance of trained and competent lawyers in the justice system, and provides some good examples of why it matters. It makes for an interesting read for lawyers and clients alike. I commend it to you.