Monthly Archives: February 2015

Lawyers and Continuing Professional Development

You might be interested to know that a lawyer’s education and professional development do not end after being called to the bar.  Lawyers, like other professionals, have an ongoing obligation to ensure that their knowledge and skills remain “current.” In Canada, lawyers are regulated provincially.  As a result, the technical requirements for professional development vary from province to province.

In Alberta, lawyers must prepare an individualized Continuing Professional Development Plan annually, and provide a declaration to the Law Society of Alberta confirming this.  The content and time requirements for the plan are not mandated; lawyers can choose the various activities to be included in their plan to meet their personal goals and objectives.  Common activities that might be included are:

  • Attendance at educational seminars;
  • Individualized research or reading;
  • Completion of courses;
  • Review of journals or other publications on a recurring basis; and
  • Participation as an instructor for seminars or courses.

Other provinces in Canada are more prescriptive with respect to professional development and require that lawyers track hours spent on approved activities.  For example, in Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada requires practicing lawyers to complete at least 12 hours in “eligible educational activities” consisting of a minimum of 3 hours on topics related to professional responsibility and ethics, and up to 9 hours on issues relating to substantive or procedural law topics or skills. In British Columbia, the requirements are similar (12 hours of time spent) but the breakdown of those hours is slightly different. In Saskatchewan, the focus is on 36 hours of “accredited CPD activities” over a 3 year period. In Manitoba, 1 hour must be spent on professional development each month.

In the end, however, regardless of the specific technical requirements, professional development is an extremely important issue. At Patriot Law Group, we take our professional development very seriously. All of our lawyers have detailed professional development plans in place so that we can ensure we are always in a position to provide the best advice and legal services to our clients.

Your Certificate of Title is both a Mirror and a Curtain

Here in Alberta, we have a “Torrens Title” land title registration system that we imported. from Australia in the late 19th century. Robert Torrens was unhappy with the laborious deeds-based system that Australia had received from English law and he developed the simpler, more efficient system that now bears his name.

In the Torrens Title registration system, the state keeps a register of land holdings and transferring land is simplified by changing the registration of the title to the land, rather than registering deeds to land that show a party’s interest in or ownership of the land. Registration of title significantly simplifies the transfer of land. When land is sold or transferred, the change in title to the land is registered. The evidence of ownership is the Certificate of Title.

The Certificate of Title is evidence of the owner’s “indefeasible” title.  The Certificate of title can be described metaphorically as a “mirror” and a “curtain” as it relates to the land.

The Certificate of Title is an accurate and complete depiction of all of the rights or interests that relate to the land and so “mirrors” the state of title. Such interests could be a bank’s mortgage that is secured by the land (allowing the bank to foreclose on an unpaid mortgage and sell the property) or a utility right-of-way (that permits a utility company to be on the property to maintain its equipment or infrastructure) or perhaps a restrictive covenant registered by a municipality that prevents certain use of the land (for example, a restriction against using a home as a place of business). The Certificate of Title shows who owns the land, who else has an interest in the land, and the nature of the interest.

All the information pertaining to ownership of the land is on the title (since it is a mirror), so there is no need to look any further to determine all there is regarding the ownership of the property.  In this way, the Certificate of Title draws a “curtain” on the past. A potential buyer can rely entirely on the information on the existing Certificate of Title, without peering into the past to ensure previous transfers occurred correctly or to see if there are any hidden interests lurking.

The mirror and curtain metaphors (or principles) are bolstered by the principle of indemnification. That is, the registrar makes full compensation for losses that its errors may cause.

There you have it: that 8.5″ x 14″ sheet of pink paper is more than just a document that proves you Own your property. It’s a metaphor. It’s a mirror and a curtain.

At Patriot Law Group, we enjoy the occasional metaphor but we avoid similes like the plague. More importantly, we are happy to handle your real estate transactions for you.

The Law Society of Alberta – Resources for the public

The Law Society of Alberta is the organization that regulates practicing lawyers in Alberta, including all of the lawyers at Patriot Law Group.  The legal profession, like many other professions is “self-governing”.  This means that lawyers are primarily responsible for regulating members of the profession in the public interest.

For your convenience, here is a short list that we have compiled of some of the things that the Law Society can do for members of the public (all of which can be accessed from the Law Society of Alberta web site):

  1. It can help you to determine if you need a lawyer and provide information about what lawyers do and what education and training they have.
  2. It maintains a handy online Lawyer Directory with contact information for currently practicing and non-practicing lawyers who are members of the Law Society.
  3. It can help you find a lawyer through the Lawyer Referral service. At Patriot Law Group, if you come to us with a legal problem that we cannot handle for you, we will either recommend a specific lawyer that we know of with expertise in the area, or we will give you the contact information for the Lawyer Referral Service.
  4. It can put you in touch with Legal Aid Alberta, which subsidizes the cost of legal services for very low income Albertans.
  5. It can put you in touch with Dial-a-Law, a free service that provides basic legal information (but not advice) about common legal issues such as buying a house, what to do when you face a separation or divorce, and so on.
  6. It can give you basic background information on how to work effectively with a lawyer and how to understand legal fees in order to maximize the value that you derive from legal services.
  7. It can help you to determine if a lawyer that you are thinking of hiring has a disciplinary record.
  8. It provides a process to resolve complaints regarding a lawyer’s ethical conduct.
  9. It can provide you information on how to make a financial claim against a lawyer if you believe that you have suffered a financial loss for which the lawyer is responsible.

What’s the best part?  All of this (and much more) is financed and provided by Alberta lawyers at no cost to the public.

Facebook Meets the Law

There are those that will tell you that Facebook’s day is done and that it is time to move on with new technologies. Here at Patriot Law Group, we scoff at such futurists but at the same time, we do secretly wonder why no one is visiting our myspace and friendster pages. Facebook, whether cool or not, remains a communication and cultural phenomenon and it is no surprise that it rears its head more and more in legal matters.

People tend to treat Facebook  as an extension of private conversation and post things they might not have fully thought out. The public accessibility of its content can mean that these “private” messages are seen by unintended audiences. For example, a few years ago at the University of Calgary, a group of dissatisfied students created a Facebook page to share their stories about a certain professor. The University caught wind of the page and cited each of the members of the Facebook page for academic misconduct. The students had the University’s disciplinary decision overturned in a judicial review at the Court of Queen’s Bench, whose decision the University appealed in the Alberta Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal agreed with the students that (among other things) the University had infringed upon their right to free expression.

Canadians’ right to free expression and the potential anonymity provided by Facebook does not necessarily mean that anything goes, though. In a disturbing case, the Supreme Court upheld the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal’s decision to force an internet service provider to disclose the profile information of a cyberbully. The cyberbully had posted a fake Facebook account that purported to be a young girl, with accompanying insulting and inappropriate commentary regarding the actual girl. The Supreme Court took the view that the need to protect the child from cyberbullying overrode the right to privacy.

Even outside of rude or offensive posts, Facebook can be used to provide evidence to help determine the outcome of a case. In this Alberta Court of Appeal case, a murderer was identified and convicted in part because he was identified in a Facebook photo by an eye-witness.

Facebook can even be used in the boring, procedural parts of the law. In an unreported Alberta case, posting notice of an action on a person’s Facebook page was deemed to be effective “substitutional service” on that person.

In conclusion, maybe the cool kids are right. Maybe Facebook is over. After all, it’s showing up in court decisions, so how cool could it possibly be? Regardless, if you’re going to use Facebook, we recommend you do so smartly and with the knowledge that your posts may be seen or shared or read by people you didn’t intend and your posts may have real consequences that you didn’t expect.