25 July 2011

Law Society Approves Practice Guidelines for Family Law

The Law Society of British Columbia has endorsed a package of best practice guidelines (PDF) recommended by its family law task force with much input from a working group established by the Canadian Bar Association British Columbia. The impetus for these guidelines stems from the Family Justice Reform Working Group's 2006 report, A New Justice System for Children and Families (PDF), which recommended that:
"... the Law Society of BC recognize the changing roles and duties of family law lawyers and develop a Code of Practice for Family Lawyers to give guidance in the balancing of a lawyer’s partisan role with the potential harm it may cause to other family members, especially children."
The guidelines are true guidelines, in the sense that they set out practice standards to be aspired toward rather than a compulsory code of conduct, and what's most interesting about them is that they could easily apply to all participants in the justice system, not just lawyers.


1. Lawyers should conduct themselves in a manner that is constructive, respectful and seeks to minimize conflict and should encourage their clients to do likewise. (Lawyers are not obliged to assist persons who are being disrespectful or abusive.)

2. Lawyers should strive to remain objective at all times, and not to over-identify with their clients or be unduly influenced by the emotions of the moment.

3. Lawyers should avoid using inflammatory language in spoken or written communications, and should encourage their clients to do likewise.

4. Lawyers should caution their clients about the limited relevance of allegations or evidence of conduct.

5. Lawyers should avoid actions that have the sole or predominant purpose of hindering, delaying or bullying an opposing party, and should encourage their clients to do likewise.

6. Lawyers cannot participate in, and should caution their clients against, any actions that are dishonest, misleading or undertaken for an improper purpose.

7. Lawyers should keep their clients advised of, and encourage their clients to consider, at all stages of the dispute:
a. the risks and costs of any proposed actions or communications;
b. both short and long term consequences;
c. the consequences for any children involved; and
d. the importance of court orders or agreements.
8. Lawyers should advise their clients that their clients are in a position of trust in relation to their children, and that
a. it is important for the client to put the children’s interests before their own; and
b. failing to do so may have a significant impact on both the children’s wellbeing and the client’s case.
9. Lawyers should advise their clients of and encourage them to consider, at all stages of the dispute, all available and suitable resources for resolving the dispute, in or out of court.

These principles all strike me as reasonable. They reflect how I practice family law and how I would like all lawyers to practice family law.