banner banner

As you are all aware, our government is trying very hard to ensure that all citizens of the province adhere to the social distancing/isolation requirements to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This means that everyone, including lawyers, should be working from home, if at all possible. There is a public interest element in continuing to have access to legal services during this difficult time and we believe that you can and should continue to provide these services as long as you can do so in compliance with the government’s recommendations.

Members should consider conducting routine meetings with clients by phone or using video-conferencing options such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and other platforms in order to comply with public health recommendations regarding social distancing. Where an in-person meeting is required, please continue to engage in social distancing techniques including, avoiding common greetings (including handshakes) and keeping a distance of two (2) meters from others.

Please remember that some individuals that carry COVID-19 may be asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms. The spread of the virus can occur unknowingly. Members and their clients may have contact with individuals who may be more vulnerable to the virus (i.e. those that are elderly, with underlying medical conditions, or who have compromised immune systems). It is, therefore, imperative that we make every effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible. Public health officials have stated that social distancing will help to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Both the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal have advised that they will accept unsworn/unaffirmed affidavits or documents at the present time. Both Courts are also only accepting documents/filings via email or fax.

Information and Updates from the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

COVID-19 Pandemic FAQs
The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to taking the health and safety of our staff, the public and the profession seriously. Staff remain available to assist you – you can contact them via telephone or email. We will respond at our earliest opportunity.
Please note that information on this page may be updated from time to time and that information provided here is guidance only.

Law Society Operations

Is the Law Society open? Are all Law Society staff members working from home?
The Law Society building is not open to members or the public. Most Law Society staff are either already working from home or are transitioning to working from home. Staff have network access so that the work of the Law Society can continue as usual with some modifications.

Will anyone be available at the Law Society offices?
Yes. A receptionist will be present at the offices to answer incoming calls and manage deliveries from couriers. If you need to deliver forms, filings or other communications, either

  • do so electronically via email to thelawsociety@lsnl.ca and/or bgrimes@lsnl.ca and forward the originals by mail to the Law Society; or
  • put them in the secure red mail drop box located in the front porch of the Law Society offices.

Members are encouraged to use electronic means where possible.

Is the Law Society extending or waiving any filing or payment deadlines?
Some requirements have been modified. The first quarter transaction levy due date has been extended to July 30, 2020. This is the scheduled due date for second quarter remittances so members should submit both quarters by July 30, 2020. Both quarters should be reported individually as usual and not be combined on the same summary form. If you have any questions regarding the Transaction Levy, please contact Lisa Kennedy at lkennedy@lsnl.ca

Other filing and payment deadlines have not changed – documents can be filed via email to thelawsociety@lsnl.ca and/or bgrimes@lsnl.ca. The originals should also be sent to the Law Society by mail. If it is not possible to send a document electronically, you may drop it off in the secure red mail drop box located in the porch of the Law Society offices.

What if I need to file a document with the Law Society?
Documents should be filed electronically by sending them to thelawsociety@lsnl.ca and/or bgrimes@lsnl.ca. The originals should also be sent to the Law Society by mail. If it is not possible to send a document electronically, you may drop it off in the secure red mail drop box located in the porch of the Law Society offices.

What if I have a payment for the Law Society?
Payments may be delivered to the Law Society by placing it in the secure red mail drop box in the porch of the Law Society offices. Please do not put cash in the drop box.

Is the Law Library open to members? To the public?
No. Members and the public do not have access to the library until further notice. Library staff will be available, however, to provide reference assistance and supply books during regular business hours. Library staff will also continue to provide a scanning service to members (see more information on this page). Members who would like assistance or materials must contact the library (telephone at (709) 753-7770 or email at lawlibrary@lsnl.ca).

Can I take books out of the Law Library?
Whether members are permitted to take a book out of the library will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and will depend on a variety of factors. Contact the library for assistance (telephone at  (709) 753-7770 or at email lawlibrary@lsnl.ca).

I have loans from the Law Library that I need to return. How can I return them?
Members can return books in the secure blue book drop box located in the porch of the Law Society offices. Loose-leaf binders should be placed in the cardboard box above the blue book drop box. There will be no other access to the library for returns.

Can library staff help me with research or finding a book?
Yes. Although access to the library is restricted, library staff are still available to answer questions and assist with research. Please contact the library for more information (telephone at (709) 753-7770 or at email lawlibrary@lsnl.ca).

Can members of the public still make complaints about lawyers?
Yes. Law Society staff are working remotely and will continue to accept complaints about lawyers.

Are meetings scheduled to be held at the Law Society offices going ahead?
Meetings will not be physically held at the Law Society offices but they may still go ahead via videoconference or teleconference. Members and others involved in those meetings will be contacted by Law Society staff and/or the person who organized the meeting.

Is there someone at the Law Society that I can talk to about a practice issue?
Yes. You may contact the Law Society and you will be directed to a staff member that will assist you.

Have Law Society disciplinary proceedings such as tribunal hearings been cancelled?
No. Disciplinary proceedings will be conducted via teleconferencing and videoconferencing technology. Individuals involved in these proceedings will be contacted by Law Society staff.
Notice of hearings will be published in the normal course on the Law Society’s website.

Courts and Government Offices, etc.

Are the courts open? Are trials going ahead?
Information about court operations can be found on each court’s website:

Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador: https://court.nl.ca/provincial/
Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (General Division): https://court.nl.ca/supreme/general/index.html
Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Family Division): https://court.nl.ca/supreme/family/index.html
Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador: https://www.court.nl.ca/appeal/

How is WASH court being conducted?
Information about WASH court can be found on this page under the heading ‘Updates – Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador’. You may also review information posted on the Provincial Court’s website: https://court.nl.ca/provincial/

I have an urgent filing for the Supreme Court – can I file it? What should I do?
The court has provided some guidance – please visit its website: https://court.nl.ca/supreme/

One of my files has an imminent limitation period/statutory deadline in the Supreme Court – will the court accept my filing?
The court will accept certain filings and it has also provided information about the extension of deadlines – please visit the COVID-19 Information page on its website for more information.

You should also consult the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act which was part of the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act that received Royal Assent on March 26, 2020.

Where can I find information about what changes the courts in other provinces and territories have implemented because of COVID-19?
Please check the website of each court for up-to-date information on the measures they are taking.

Given that lots of people are working from home, how do I serve documents on Her Majesty in Right of Newfoundland and Labrador?
The Department of Justice and Public Safety has provided some guidance that can be found on this page under the heading ‘Updates – Provincial Government’.

Will the courts accept documents that are not sworn?
Both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have relaxed their rules. Here is the guidance provided by the Supreme Court on March 20, 2020:

“Where it is not possible to obtain a signature from a person authorized to administer oaths, parties may file unsworn/unaffirmed affidavits or documents without that signature. The Court may require that a party/affiant participate in a telephone or videoconference hearing to swear/affirm to facts contained in an affidavit or other document. The Court may require original documents to be filed before granting any order.”

The Court of Appeal stated the following on March 18, 2020:

“Documents requiring a signature from a commissioner for oaths may be submitted electronically without that signature where a party does not have access to a person who is a commissioner for oaths. As soon as practicable, parties must file with the Court the original document signed by a commissioner for oaths.”

If any of the courts provide further guidance, the Law Society will forward it to members. You may also wish to check all of the court’s websites from time to time for other updates:

Provincial Court: https://court.nl.ca/provincial/
Supreme Court: https://court.nl.ca/supreme/
Court of Appeal: https://www.court.nl.ca/appeal/

Is the Commercial Registrations Division operational?
Please see the notice distributed by the Law Society to its members on behalf of Dean Doyle, Director of Commercial Registrations, found here.
As further information becomes available, it will be broadly communicated to the profession.

I need a legal clearance from WorkplaceNL – are its offices open?
A notice from WorkplaceNL about legal clearances is found on this page under ‘Updates – Provincial Government’.

Are my clients relieved of paying child support during this pandemic?

The Support Enforcement office has provided some information for payors and recipients of support. Please see the Support Enforcement website for more information:

https://www.gov.nl.ca/jps/childsupport/support-enforcement/#6

What kinds of family matters does the Supreme Court consider urgent?

The Supreme Court has provided some information on how to interpret “urgent”:
https://court.nl.ca/supreme/family/pdf/Covid%2019%20-%20(FJS)%20Custody%20and%20Access%20Information.pdf

2020 04 28 – Notice to the Profession and General Public – Family Matters

For more information on the changes at the Supreme Court due to COVID-19, please see its websites:

Family Division: https://court.nl.ca/supreme/family/index.html
General Division: https://court.nl.ca/supreme/general/index.html

What happens if services and partners integral to providing legal services (e.g. courts, government offices) close due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
The Law Society is proactively monitoring and responding to the impact of COVID-19. As information becomes available, it will be broadly communicated to the profession. Where possible and appropriate, the Law Society will provide guidance as issues arise.

CLE Programs and Requirements

Will the CLE requirements be reduced or waived for this year?
At this time, the mandatory CLE requirements continue to apply. The Law Society continues to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on all aspects of its operations. If any changes are made to the mandatory CLE requirements, it will be broadly communicated to members.

Are CLE programs cancelled?
Yes, all current CLE programs have been cancelled for the time being. Efforts are being made to reschedule live programs or deliver them by webcast.

What if I have already registered for a CLE program – will I get a refund because it has been cancelled?
Members who have registered for any CLE seminars have two options:

  1. Members may request a refund or return of their cheque by contacting Andrea Mercer via email: amercer@lsnl.ca. Please bear with us as it may take some time to process these requests.
  2. Members can maintain their registration for any CLE programs, pending further information regarding the timing and delivery of these programs.

Members may request a refund at any point prior to the ultimate delivery of the CLE seminar and all deadlines specified in previous notices or correspondence are hereby waived.

Operating Your Practice

This whole situation is quite stressful and I’m feeling anxious. What can I do?
If you are experiencing concern and/or anxiety regarding the spread and/or impact of COVID-19 you are encouraged to reach out to the Professionals’ Assistance Program.

Homewood Health, the Law Society’s service provider, has already issued a notice regarding COVID-19: https://lsnl.ca/a-message-from-homewood-your-professional-assistance-provider/

Please find the contact information for Homewood at: https://lsnl.ca/lawyers-students/wellness-program/

How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?
The World Health Organization, Government of Canada and Provincial Government have made recommendations on how to protect yourself and others from contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Some basic recommendations are:

  • wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds;
  • use approved hand sanitizers (alcohol based);
  • avoid touching your face/mouth, especially with unwashed hands;
  • avoid close contact with people and animals if illness is suspected;
  • stay at home if you are sick;
  • cough into a tissue or your elbow and then wash your hands immediately;
  • frequently clean and disinfect high-touch areas such as toilets, bedside tables and door handles with diluted bleach or a regular household cleaner; and
  • contact 811 if you develop a fever, cough or have difficulty breathing.

What should I be doing at the office to help reduce the spread of COVID-19?
Preparing for a public health event should be part of your own firm or organization’s business continuity planning. Having a plan will save valuable time and resources later. Some simple tips to consider include:

  • increase work area hygiene by cleaning door handles, desks, phones, etc. daily;
  • suspend conventional business etiquette such as hand shaking;
  • limit in-person meetings by leveraging technology, e.g. video conferencing;
  • plan for removal of work access and ensure staff have the access and tools needed;
  • notify clients and customers if work hours or your operations change;
  • keep your voicemail, website and/or social media updated regarding changes to your operations; and
  • review sick leave benefits and discuss with your staff in case self-quarantine is required.

This is not a complete list as there are many things to consider in your business continuity planning, but it’s a start.

Loss Prevention Tips #36 and #37 which were sent out to the membership by the Insurance Programme are also instructive:

https://lsnl.ca/loss-prevention-tip-36/
https://lsnl.ca/loss-prevention-tip-37/

Here are some additional resources:

Succession Planning for Unplanned Absences: https://lsnl.ca/lawyers-students/practicing-status/succession-planning/
Closing your Practice: https://lsnl.ca/lawyers-students/practicing-status/closing-your-practice/
Disaster Planning and Recovery (Law Society of Alberta): https://www.lawsociety.ab.ca/resource-centre/disaster-planning-and-recovery/
When Bad Things Happen to Good Lawyers: Contingency Planning Guide (Law Society of Alberta): https://dvbat5idxh7ib.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/22203930/When-Bad-Things-Happen-to-Good-Lawyers.pdf
Pandemics and the Workplace: a Resource for Lawyers (Canadian Bar Association): https://www.cba.org/getattachment/Sections/Labour-Employment/Resources/Resources/2014/Pandemics-and-the-Workplace-A-Resource-for-Lawyers/PandemicEng.pdf
Pandemic Preparedness for Business (Canadian Chamber of Commerce): http://www.chamber.ca/resources/pandemic-preparedness/BusinessPrepGuidePanPrep2020

Are there special considerations for my practice if I’m going to work from home?
If lawyers choose to work remotely, they should consider whether all the key information they require is readily accessible and current. This includes client contact information, client files, staff and service provider contact information, bank account information, and passwords for personal and staff voicemail, computers and emails.

Lawyers should also consider how they will:

  • keep client information confidential from family members or others;
  • communicate with clients;
  • secure and receive deliveries to their offices; and
  • continue to delegate to, and appropriately supervise, staff.

Consider these practices and tips if working from home:

  • protect your passwords;
  • lock your computer if leaving it unattended;
  • work in a private area, particularly if you are video-conferencing or dialing into meetings;
  • safeguard physical records and documents – ensure that the information is only visible to you and emphasize to others that no one else is permitted to look at the documents. Lock them away if necessary;
  • avoid downloading firm or client documents onto home computers and devices where they can be accessed by others; and
  • be alert to cyber-security hazards and phishing, particularly in a disrupted environment. Home computer systems may also not have the same security levels as those in the office. If possible, it is best for staff to work remotely using a work-issued laptop with updated security. If not, they should ensure they have updated security and are using strong passwords.

If other staff will also be working remotely, lawyers must also ensure that they are able to maintain confidentiality in doing so.

I think I may have contracted COVID-19 – what should I do?
All residents of the province are urged to follow the advice of the Department of Health and Community Services. More information, including a self-assessment tool and guidance on when to seek help, can be found here.

What if I can’t continue to manage my practice because of illness?
In the event that a lawyer is unable to continue to manage his or her practice due to illness, he or she should have a power of attorney with respect to his or her law practice in place. For more information, see https://lsnl.ca/lawyers-students/practicing-status/succession-planning/. You may also want to consult contingency planning guides found in other jurisdictions, such as the Law Society of Ontario’s Contingency Planning Guide for Lawyers and the Law Society of Alberta’s When Bad Things Happen to Good Lawyers: Contingency Planning Guide.

Lawyers should also consider what specific tasks are impacted if staff are unable to attend the office and ensure that coverage is provided so that clients are not prejudiced.

What should I do if I decide to change my hours of business or there are other firm changes?
If lawyers are changing their business hours, if alternative means of communication will be used or there will be delays to communication, or if other changes to firm operations are anticipated, lawyers should communicate this information to clients and staff as soon as practicable. Lawyers may consider using email updates, notices on their websites, or other means, as appropriate, based on the needs of their clients and staff.

Practice Management

Are my professional obligations reduced or modified in the context of COVID-19?
Lawyers’ professional obligations continue to apply. If you wish to discuss a practice management issue with a member of the Law Society staff, please contact the Law Society.

I’m concerned about my professional liability – who should I contact?
For questions about professional liability in the context of COVID-19, lawyers should contact the Insurance Programme at (709) 722-6008 or by email at insurance@lsnl.ca

Keep in mind that all insured members are required to report a claim or potential claim as soon as practicable after learning of it. More information can be found here on the Law Society’s website.

How can I communicate effectively with my client while practising social distancing?
In the context of COVID-19, public health best practices include social distancing. Lawyers should consider conducting routine meetings with clients by phone or using video-conferencing options such as Zoom, Skype, Facetime and other platforms to comply with public health recommendations about social distancing. It is also important for lawyers to be aware of the types of engagements with clients that in typical circumstances would require an in-person meeting and that in the context of COVID-19 require a heightened risk-based approach if an in-person meeting is not going to be conducted.

Lawyers should be mindful of their obligations to communicate effectively with clients in selecting an alternative means of communication. Commentary [3] to Rule 3.2-1 of the Code of Professional Conduct provides that what is effective communication with the client will vary depending on the nature of the retainer, the needs and sophistication of the client, and the need for the client to make fully informed decisions and provide instructions.

In the context of COVID-19, if lawyers choose to change their means of client communication, they should consider notifying clients about the alternative means of communication that they intend to use as soon as practicable.

What can I do to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 if I must meet with clients or others?
In some situations, it may not be possible to avoid meeting with clients and others. Lawyers should therefore consider taking precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. This includes hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, environmental cleaning and social distancing. Examples of good social distancing include avoiding common greetings such as shaking hands and keeping a distance of at least 2 metres from others. For more information, review the recommendations set out in these public health resources provided by the Government of Canada and consider implementing them:

The Department of Health and Community Services also has helpful information on its COVID-19 webpage.

In the context of COVID-19, can a lawyer fulfil the requirements for client identification and verification over the phone or video?
Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Law Society understands that members may face challenges in meeting their obligations under the anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules. While we continue to expect that members will do everything possible to meet all of their obligations, we recognize that it may be challenging to verify a client’s identity where the member and his/her client are unable to meet in person.

Members are reminded that the rules permit members to verify a client’s identity by two methods that do not require meeting face to face with the client – the dual process method or using information in a client’s credit file.

In addition, members should consider whether they may be able to rely upon the previous verification by another person (for example, a real estate agent) as permitted under the rules.

If however, a member is unable to available himself or herself of any other method, in these unique circumstances and as a last resort, the Law Society will take a reasonable approach in its compliance activity if the member were to conduct the verification of the client’s identity by using video conference technology, provided that:

  • the member can be reasonably satisfied that the government issued identification is valid and current;
  • the member can compare the image in the government issued identification with the client to be reasonably satisfied that it is the same person;
  • the member records, with the applicable date, the method by which the member verified the client’s identification;
  • the member treats the transaction as a high-risk transaction and continues to monitor the business relationship as a high-risk transaction; and
  • the member documents the efforts that were made to verify the client’s identity in accordance with the existing rules and the reasons why the member was unable to verify the client’s identity in accordance with the existing rules.

Members are reminded that fraudsters look to take advantage of unusual circumstances such as are being addressed here, and therefore, if a transaction presents too much of a risk, members should decline to act. For more information about risks, you may also want to consult the Federation of Law Societies’ Risk Advisories for the Legal Profession resource.

This guidance is intended to assist members experiencing challenges complying with the Client Identification and Verification Rules as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The guideline will remain in effect until further notice by the Law Society.

Can I commission a document remotely?

The requirements for administering an oath continue to apply but have been modified through the enactment of the Temporary Alternate Witnessing of Documents Act and Rule 18 of the Rules of the Law Society.

It should also be noted that both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have relaxed their rules. Here is the guidance provided by the Supreme Court on March 20, 2020:

“Where it is not possible to obtain a signature from a person authorized to administer oaths, parties may file unsworn/unaffirmed affidavits or documents without that signature. The Court may require that a party/affiant participate in a telephone or video conference hearing to swear/affirm to facts contained in an affidavit or other document. The Court may require original documents to be filed before granting any order.”

The Court of Appeal stated the following on March 18, 2020:

“Documents requiring a signature from a commissioner for oaths may be submitted electronically without that signature where a party does not have access to a person who is a commissioner for oaths. As soon as practicable, parties must file with the Court the original document signed by a commissioner for oaths.”

If any of the courts provide further guidance, the Law Society will forward it to you. You may also wish to check all of the court’s websites from time to time for other updates:

Provincial Court: https://court.nl.ca/provincial/
Supreme Court: https://court.nl.ca/supreme/
Court of Appeal: https://www.court.nl.ca/appeal/

If you have questions about any of this information, please contact Brenda B. Grimes, QC, Executive Director of the Law Society, at bgrimes@lsnl.ca or (709) 722-4795.

Have the requirements for executing a will been relaxed in light of the requirement for social distancing?

The requirements for executing a will continue to apply but have been modified through the enactment of the Temporary Alternate Witnessing of Documents Act and Rule 18 of the Rules of the Law Society.

You may still need to witness a will in person – guidance on this topic was outlined in a broadcast that can be found on this page under “Requirements under the Wills Act”.

What about client capacity? Can I assess it remotely?
Lawyers should continue to consult the relevant legislation and case law that govern capacity, and consider whether or not they have the ability to adequately assess a person’s capacity through remote means, such as on video conferencing or telephone.

The legislation applicable will depend on the context of the matter. Section 3.2-9 of the Code of Professional Conduct and its commentary also provide guidance on dealing with clients with diminished capacity.

In using video conferencing or telephone as the exclusive means of communicating with a client, lawyers should also assess whether there is a risk that the client may be subject to undue influence or duress.

Have limitation periods and deadlines been altered in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?

This issue was addressed in the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act passed in the House of Assembly – this Act was part of the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act that received Royal Assent on March 26, 2020.

The Supreme Court also issued guidance on the extension of deadlines – it is found on the Court’s page dedicated to updates on COVID-19 along with other important updates from the Court.

If I use video conferencing, what are some best practices I should keep in mind?
When using video conferencing for the provision of legal advice or services, it is recommended that lawyers do the following in addition to their normal practice for client meetings and telephone calls:

  • confirm the client’s consent to proceed in this manner.
  • ask that all individuals in the remote location introduce themselves.
  • ensure that there is no one else at the remote location who may be improperly influencing the client.
  • make sure that audio and video feeds are stable and that you can hear and see all parties.
  • confirm the client’s understanding about the services they are receiving and provide adequate opportunity for them to ask questions.
  • where identification is produced to support verification of identity, ensure that a copy of the document is sent to you in advance of the online meeting and that when it is produced that the entire document is visible and legible.
  • maintain detailed records including: date, start and end time, method of communication, identity of all present, and minutes of content of meeting.
  • consider whether there are any red flags. For a list of some red flags to consider, see the Federation of Law Societies’ Risk Advisories for the Legal Profession resource.

Can I use an electronic signature to execute documents?
This is a substantive legal issue which is context specific and the Law Society does not regulate how documents are executed. Lawyers should review applicable legislation to determine if electronic signatures are permitted in the context of their matters.

It seems like there are legal issues (e.g. limitation periods and being physically present to witness a will) which could be addressed through legislative change or direction from the Court – does the Law Society know if the Courts or the Department of Justice and Public Safety is contemplating any changes?
The Law Society has contacted the Department of Public Safety and the Courts regarding the issues raised by the profession and updates will be provided to lawyers when they become available. A summary of the messages sent to the members can also be found below under the following headings:

Updates – Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador
Updates – Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal
Updates – Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador
Updates – Provincial Government
Updates – Federal Government

Information for the Public

Is my trial going ahead?
Court operations are not managed by the Law Society. Information about court operations and the impact of COVID-19 can be found on each court’s website:

Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador: https://court.nl.ca/provincial/
Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (General Division): https://court.nl.ca/supreme/general/index.html
Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Family Division): https://court.nl.ca/supreme/family/index.html
Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador: https://www.court.nl.ca/appeal/

Am I still able to make a complaint against a lawyer?
Yes. Law Society staff are working from home but are still able to take complaints about lawyers. Please contact the Law Society for more information.

Is the Law Library open to the public?
No. Members and the public do not have access to the library until further notice.

May 29, 2020

CLE Seminar – The Court’s Response to COVID-19

Date: Monday, June 15, 2020
Time: 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Location: online

Please see here for further details and to register.

May 26, 2020

CLE Seminar – The Role of Title Insurance in COVID-19

Date: Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Location: online

Please see here for further details and to register.

May 22, 2020

Amendment to Rule 18

We have amended Rule 18 to provide for alternative methods of verification, in limited circumstances, where a client, who is known to a member, does not have a government issued photo identification that is valid and current. The alternative methods do not apply to matters involving:

a) the receiving, paying or transferring of funds as outlined in Rule 16.04;
b) the witnessing of a will; or
c) the witnessing, notarizing or commissioning of a document under the Registration of Deeds Act, 2009.

The new rule requires compliance with Rule 16.06(6)(a)(ii) or Rule 16.06(6)(a)(iii) and the execution of an Affidavit outlining:

a) the member’s belief that the client does not have government issued photo identification that is valid and current and the reasons for that belief;
b) the particulars of how the client is known to the member;
c) the reasons for the member’s belief that the client is who they claim to be; and
d) the particulars of the matter.

A sample Rule 18.05A Affidavit is available on the Law Society’s COVID-19 webpage for your review:

https://lsnl.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Affidavit.pdf

May 6, 2020

Temporary Alternate Witnessing of Documents Act

Further to our email of yesterday’s date, we have been advised that the Temporary Alternate Witnessing of Documents Act has received Royal Assent. As a result, it is now in force along with Law Society Rule 18.

Law Society Rule 18, Form 18 and the Guidance Document relating to the Rule can be found below.

If you have any questions relating to Law Society Rule 18 or the Guidance Document, please contact Angie Whitehead at awhitehead@lsnl.ca

May 5, 2020

Law Society Rule 18 – Witnessing, Commissioning and Notarizing Documents Via Audio-Visual Communication

Please be advised that the House of Assembly has passed the Temporary Alternate Witnessing of Documents Act (the “Act”).

In anticipation of the Act receiving Royal Assent and in accordance with the Law Society Act, 1999, Benchers have approved Law Society Rule 18 – Witnessing, Commissioning and Notarizing Documents Via Audio-Visual Communication and Law Society Form 18. Members are required to comply with Rule 18.

https://lsnl.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Law-Society-Rule-18-1.pdf

Please follow the link below to review Law Society Form 18:

https://lsnl.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Law-Society-Form-18-2.pdf

Benchers have also approved the provision of a Guidance Document that is intended to assist members in understanding their obligations under Law Society Rule 18. Members are strongly encouraged to review this Guidance Document prior to witnessing, commissioning or notarizing a document in accordance with the Act and Law Society Rule 18. Please follow the link below to review the Guidance Document:

Guidance Document

We will provide an update when we are notified that the Act has received Royal Assent. Meanwhile, you can check the status of the Act on the House of Assembly’s website:

https://www.assembly.nl.ca/HouseBusiness/Bills/ga49session1/

If you have any questions relating to Law Society Rule 18 or the Guidance Document, please contact Angie Whitehead at awhitehead@lsnl.ca

April 27, 2020

CLE Seminar – Family Law Update (2020)

This seminar can be watched at the following link:

https://zoom.us/rec/share/2vVFNLrJzl1LaZHv827QBqkTAqf9eaa80SFM_6dbxRkgqeiUa1Sc0o5NCX2IfJrK

Access Password: 4A$%9$@#

April 7, 2020

Impact of COVID-19 on Current and Future Students-at-Law

This information is meant to address the impact of COVID-19 on current and future articling arrangements regulated by the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.

For details, please see here.

April 6, 2020

Transaction Levy

The Law Society has decided to extend the first quarter Transaction Levy due date to July 30, 2020. This is the scheduled due date for second quarter remittances. As such, members should submit both quarters by July 30, 2020. We ask that the quarters be reported individually as usual and not be combined on the same summary form.

If you have any questions regarding the Transaction Levy, please contact Lisa Kennedy at lkennedy@lsnl.ca

April 3, 2020

Requirements under the Wills Act

Without a legislative amendment, the requirements for drafting a valid will under the Wills Act continue to apply. At this time, the Law Society is not aware of any movement on the government’s part to amend the Wills Act on an interim basis to deal with issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic or the existing Pubic Health State of Emergency.

For details, please see here.

CLE Seminar – Business Continuity for Law Offices in the Face of Coronavirus

This seminar can be watched at the following link:

https://zoom.us/rec/share/_8h6A4rK7UxIRoHjyUXWRpQYPI65eaa8hCIX86VezkZ-NaMLfjC1wZvT23OEr_rw

March 27, 2020

Update Notice

As previously advised, we have been consulting with the Minister of Justice and Public Safety and his staff as well as Service NL on issues which impact on the public’s access to legal services.

To read the full update, please see here.

Client Information Disclosure Advisory

Please find attached an advisory intended to provide guidance to legal professionals testing or presumptively positive for the COVID-19 virus. The advisory suggests the appropriate action to take where lawyers are requested to disclose the name and contact information for clients who may have been exposed to the virus.

If you have any questions arising from the advisory, please direct them to the Director of Professional Responsibility, Lori Chafe at lchafe@lsnl.ca

COVID 19 Advice re Disclosure NL

March 25, 2020

Consultations with Government

We understand that these are trying times and that there are a myriad of issues arising for which you can find no easy answers. We want to reassure you that we are here and that we are consulting daily with the Minister of Justice and Public Safety and his staff on issues that impact on the public’s access to legal services. The Minister and his staff have been readily available and they are working hard to try to provide answers on the issues raised, including limitation periods and the witnessing/swearing of documents. However, these are unusual circumstances and it is possible that they may not be able to provide clarity on all issues.

In order to streamline the process and allow the Minister and his staff to focus on trying to find those answers, we are asking you to please direct your questions and concerns with respect to the public’s access to legal services to the Executive Director of the Law Society at bgrimes@lsnl.ca who will ensure that they are communicated appropriately.

In the meantime, we urge you again to ensure that you continue to provide legal services to the public in a manner that is compliant with the required social distancing and other protocols in effect during this public health emergency.

March 19, 2020

Library Service Notice

Library staff will continue to be in the building to provide reference assistance and books during regular business hours. Members, please note that your access cards have been deactivated and you cannot progress beyond the porch area.

The Law Library offers a scanning service for all members, regardless of location. During this state of emergency, we strongly encourage you to consider using our scanning service rather than requesting hard copy books.

For more information, please see here.

March 18, 2020

Operation of the Law Society during the COVID-19 Pandemic

After monitoring the rapid developments regarding COVID-19 and considering the advice of public health experts and government officials, the Law Society will be transitioning staff to work from home. Members can continue to contact Law Society staff via email: https://lsnl.ca/about-us/staff-directory/

For more information, please see here.

 

Information and Updates from the Insurance Programme and Professionals’ Assistance Program

April 23, 2020

COVID-19: Managing the Impact

As governments and health authorities amend and update measures implemented to control the spread and risk of infection of COVID-19, organizations and businesses of all sizes are adapting to new workplace realities. Attached is a general COVID-19 update to help you manage the impact.

Managing the Impact

April 13, 2020

COVID-19: Financial Tips for Your Financial Health

Homewood, your Professional Assistance Provider, has created the attached financial tip sheet in managing financial health.

Financial Tips for Your Financial Health

March 23, 2020

Loss Prevention Tip #38

Beware of Cybersecurity Risks During COVID-19 and Working from Home

March 19, 2020

COVID-19 – What Social Distancing Means for the Profession

For information, please see here.

March 13, 2020

Loss Prevention Tip #36

Coronavirus and your Law Practice

Loss Prevention Tip #37

Practical Steps for Your Law Practice During this Coronavirus Pandemic

March 5, 2020

A Message from Homewood, Your Professional Assistance Provider

Information re: Coronavirus

 

Updates – Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador

June 3, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Re: Rescheduling Missed Appearances in the St. John’s Family Division

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Rescheduling Missed Appearances 

May 29, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Re: Public and Media Attendance at Remote Appearances

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Public and Media Attendance at Remote Appearances

May 14, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Re: Expansion of Permitted Filings and Remote Appearances

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Expansion of Permitted Filings and Remote Appearances

May 8, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Re: Court Operations

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Update on Court Operations

May 4, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Re: Notices of Application

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Notices of Application 

Re: Electronic Filings and Contact Info for St. John’s Family Division

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Electronic Filings

Re: Expansion of Court Operations

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Update

April 28, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Re: Court operations

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Court Operations

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Re: Family matters

Notice to the Profession and General Public – Family Matters

April 27, 2020

The Supreme Court is actively developing a plan to return to normal service levels as soon as it is safe to do so and will begin a gradual expansion of services starting on May 4th. A Notice providing additional details will be posted to the Court’s website early next week.

April 17, 2020

CBA-NL Consultations with the Supreme Court

The Newfoundland and Labrador Branch of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA-NL) recently wrote a letter to Chief Justice Whalen offering suggestions on how the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador may effectively utilize judicial resources and available technology in order to keep the due administration of justice operating as effectively as is reasonable in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Letter – Court Operations and the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

April 3, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Re: Extensions of time for non-urgent matters

Notice to the Profession and General Public – COVID-19 Preventative Measures

April 2, 2020

Update – Family Law Matters and COVID-19

We have received several inquiries seeking clarification on the types of family law matters that will be deemed urgent by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. Members have also sought clarification on whether access and/or shared parenting orders are suspended to comply with direction from the Chief Medical Officer to “stay home”.

The Court has directed us to the following COVID-19 Custody and Access Information Sheet that has been developed by Family Justice Services to assist parents. The link provides useful information and resources regarding co-parenting that can be beneficial for both parents and counsel:

Information for families with a custody and access order or agreement

The Court has advised that it will continue to provide up to date information on its operations on its website at: https://court.nl.ca/

March 30, 2020

Support Enforcement

In response to inquiries relating to Support Enforcement Matters, the Court has directed us to the following link:

https://www.gov.nl.ca/jps/childsupport/support-enforcement/

Support Enforcement has provided information for both payors (including those that may be experiencing a hardship as a result of an order) and recipients of support that may be helpful.

The Court has also noted that it will continue to deal with urgent and emergency requests in accordance with the notice to the profession issued on March 18, 2020, noted below.

March 27, 2020

Limitation Periods

We were asked to seek clarification on the meaning of “imminent” as stated in s. 5 of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Notice to the Profession and General Public, which states:

5. The Court registry will accept electronic filings (via email or fax) where a statutory deadline, or limitation period under the Limitations Act, S.N.L. 1995, c. L-16.1, is imminent.
In response, the Court has advised that it will accept electronic filings via email or fax where a limitation period is expiring while the court is operating with reduced resources and there is no direct access to the Court registry. The Court is asking members to exercise their discretion in good faith when making filings with the Court.

March 24, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

The notice concerns Court appearances.

Notice – March 23, 2020

March 20, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

The notice addresses the Court’s processes regarding urgent filings, the requirement to have documents witnessed and limitation periods.

We have also been advised by the Court that its drop boxes are not currently being used. The Court is only accepting urgent filings through email or fax as outlined in the notice issued on March 18, 2020.

Notice – March 20, 2020

March 18, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador is limiting regular operations in order to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

Please see the attached notice for more details.

Notice – March 18, 2020

Family Division

At this time, Family Division can only hear applications about kidnapping/abduction of a child or immediate risk to the safety of a child. If the above applies to you, please call (709) 729-2573 or email familyinquiries@supreme.court.nl.ca

March 13, 2020

Suspension of Jury Trials – Supreme Court of NL

Please be advised that from March 17, 2020 to May 31, 2020 the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador will suspend the hearing of jury trials not otherwise in progress.

Please see the attached letter for more details.

Letter – March 13, 2020

 

Updates – Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal

June 3, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

Notice to Profession and General Public – Public and Media Attendance at Remote Hearings

April 28, 2020

Update – Notice to the Profession and General Public

The update can be read here.

March 19, 2020

Notice to the Profession and General Public

The Court of Appeal is limiting regular operations in order to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

Please see the attached notice for more details.

Notice – March 18, 2020

 

Updates – Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador

May 13, 2020

Update – Expansion of Operations – Virtual Court – up to and including June 26, 2020

For details, please see the attached notice.

Notice to Profession and Public – Issued May 13, 2020 – Provincial Court

April 29, 2020

Update – Court Operations

The Provincial Court has provided an update regarding the expansion of court operations and virtual court.

For details, please see the attached notice.

Notice to Profession – Issued April 28, 2020 – Provincial Court

March 30, 2020

Court Scheduling

As of Monday, March 30, 2020 the Provincial Court will not be operating from its courthouses. Public access is unavailable. For more info visit http://court.nl.ca

Revised COVID-19 Operational Plan

March 25, 2020

Update – WASH Court

Please be advised that until further notice the Court will continue to use the teleconferencing procedures set out below for purposes of WASH Court.

For details, please see here.

March 24, 2020

Clarenville Provincial Court

Please be advised that effective Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Clarenville Provincial Court is closed until further notice. Should you have any enquiries for Clarenville Provincial Court, please call 466-2635.

For details, please see here.

March 23, 2020

Access to Provincial Courts

Effective Monday, March 23, 2020, public access to Provincial Courts will be restricted. Criminal matters to May 22, for those not in-custody, are being rescheduled for 10 weeks later.

For more information please see http://court.nl.ca

Update – CourtCall

Due to issues recently experienced with many Stakeholders with CourtCall, effective Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Provincial Court is temporarily implementing call-in numbers for Stakeholders when appearing in Court.

For details, please see here.

Revised – COVID-19 Operational Plan – Provincial Court

COVID-19 Conference Call Stakeholder Listing

March 20, 2020

WASH Court

For details, please see here.

March 19, 2020

WASH Court – Transport of In Custody Accused

This is to advise that commencing this coming weekend and for the duration of the Court’s reduced operations in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (March 16, 2020 – May 22, 2020), there will be no transport of in custody accused to the Provincial Court in St. John’s from the St. John’s City lockup for purposes of in person WASH Court appearances.

For details, please see here.

 

Updates – Provincial Government 

COVID-19 information

May 28, 2020

Public Prosecutions Division

The Public Prosecutions Division, Department of Justice and Public Safety advises that Crown Attorneys are actively reviewing prosecution matters and communicating with defence counsel to identify matters that can reasonably be expected to proceed in a virtual “courtroom”.

The Public Prosecutions Division also invites all counsel and accused persons to contact Public Prosecutions with respect to any matters they believe could proceed in accordance with the COVID-19 Operational Plans of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Inquiries may be directed to the Regional Crown Office associated to the Court having jurisdiction over the matter.

April 24, 2020

Update – Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act

For your information, please find attached a copy of the Gazette published today. You will note that it includes:

Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Order issued pursuant to section 6 of the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act and which addresses retroactive variation of deadlines in the Limitations Act, Family Law Act and Human Rights Act, 2010; and

Variation of Deadlines Notices issued by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment and the Minister of Justice and Public Safety pursuant to section 3 of the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines.

NL Gazette – April 24, 2020

April 22, 2020

Update -Labour Relations Board

The Board continues to provide its services on a remote basis as outlined in a Notice that was circulated by the Law Society of NL on behalf of the Board on March 19, 2020 (see https://lsnl.ca/nl-labour-relations-board-notice-covid-19-operations/).

The Board has recently started using remote technology to allow parties and individuals to swear or affirm that the contents of filings are true and accurate. This is being done after the Board has received those filings electronically in an unsworn format. Normally these types of filings (applications, replies, responses etc.) would be received by the Board by way of statutory declaration or affidavit at the time of filing. Further information with respect to this new process will be provided by the Board to parties and individuals, as needed, for specific files.

April 15, 2020

Update – Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development

We have been advised by the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development that certain time periods outlined in the Children, Youth and Families Act and the Adult Protection Act have been amended in accordance with s. 3 of the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act.

The Department has advised that, notwithstanding the variations, the Department’s staff will continue to complete the required actions as soon as possible and certainly within the varied timelines.

The below notice outlines the specific variations.

CSSD Notice on Variation of Deadlnes and Time Periods

April 6, 2020

Commissioning Documents

The Courts have released information on the commissioning of documents.

For more information, please see here.

April 3, 2020

Requirements under the Wills Act

Without a legislative amendment, the requirements for drafting a valid will under the Wills Act continue to apply. At this time, the Law Society is not aware of any movement on the government’s part to amend the Wills Act on an interim basis to deal with issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic or the existing Pubic Health State of Emergency.

For details, please see here.

Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act – Submissions Due Monday, April 6, 2020

As noted in our email of April 1, 2020, the House of Assembly has passed the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act (the “Act”) which can be found online at: https://www.assembly.nl.ca/Legislation/sr/statutes/t04-02.htm

For more details, see here.

April 1, 2020

Update – Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act and the Wills Act

The House of Assembly has passed the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act (the “Act”) which can be found online at: https://www.assembly.nl.ca/Legislation/sr/statutes/t04-02.htm

For details, please see here.

March 26, 2020

WorkplaceNL – Adjustments to Requesting Legal Clearance

WorkplaceNL is committed to continued responses to legal clearance requests.

For more information, please see the attached notice.

Adjustments to Requesting Legal Clearance from Workplace NL

March 23, 2020

Update – Human Rights Commission

Please refer to www.thinkhumanrights.ca for the Human Rights complaint process.

Update – Commercial Registrations Division

In a further effort to maintain the safety and well-being of staff, clients and the community in light of COVID-19, Service NL has suspended counter service at its Commercial Registrations Division. The full news release can be located at: https://www.gov.nl.ca/releases/2020/servicenl/0322n04/

For details, please see here.

March 20, 2020

Department of Justice and Public Safety

Until further notice is provided, if you wish to serve documents related to child protection or adult protection matters, please contact Jacqueline Pelletier at jpelletier@gov.nl.ca to make arrangements.

If you wish to serve documents related to other civil matters on Her Majesty in right of Newfoundland and Labrador not related to Unified Family Court please contact either Philip Osborne at philiposborne@gov.nl.ca or Justin Mellor at jmellor@gov.nl.ca to make arrangements.

Labour Relations Board Update

Effective March 17, 2020, the Labour Relations Board is operating on a remote basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, please see the attached notice.

Notice – Labour Relations Board

March 19, 2020

Update – Commercial Registrations Division

In response to the current situation, the Commercial Registrations Division has made changes to their service.

For more information, please see here.

RNC Community Update

Effective immediately, all Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) locations are closed for non-emergencies until further notice.

For more information, please see the RNC website.

March 17, 2020

Update – Provincial Government Services

The Provincial Government is currently operating at a reduced capacity and there may be delays in service delivery. The nature and type of service provided is subject to change as government continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

For information on specific government services, please see their website.

Update – Bail Supervision Program

As a result of the COVID-19 situation it has been decided that the Bail Supervision Pilot Program will not be starting today as previously indicated. The program will be on hold until further notice. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

 

Updates – Federal Government

Health Canada

Canada’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

March 19, 2020

Supreme Court of Canada – Filing of all documents by email

To assist parties in filing their documents within their respective timelines as set out in the Supreme Court Act and the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada, documents may be filed by email, whether originating or otherwise. The original paper copies shall be filed subsequently within a reasonable time.

For further information, please see the SCC website.