Under the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society of the Northwest Territories is responsible for licensing lawyers and regulating the practice of law. The Law Society also has responsibility under the Act to take action against non-lawyers who illegally offer legal services or misrepresent themselves as lawyers. This responsibility exists for protection of the public.
Members of the public can risk serious legal and financial consequences by entrusting legal matters to unregulated non-lawyers. Non-lawyers lack the education necessary to give legal advice or perform legal services. They are not subject to ethical and practice standards or other regulatory requirements and do not carry errors and omissions insurance or trust protection coverage.
Non-lawyers engage in unauthorized practice when they perform or offer to perform legal services for members of the public for a fee. Examples include preparing separation agreements or divorce papers, incorporating companies or drafting wills and probate documents or appearing or offering to appear as counsel before a court or an administrative tribunal. Non-lawyers are also prohibited from falsely identifying themselves as lawyers.
When the Law Society receives a complaint of unauthorized practice, or discovers an unauthorized lawyer practicing within the Northwest Territories, it will review the information and investigate. If the facts show there is unauthorized practice, the Society will explain the restrictions that apply to the practice of law and will ask the non-lawyer to refrain from any activity that is unauthorized practice. Usually this step is sufficient. When it is not, the Law Society has statutory authority to seek a court injunction.
The Law Society publicizes undertakings and court actions to ensure the community understands this aspect of the Society’s mandate, and also to gain the assistance of lawyers and members of the public in recognizing new or recurring unauthorized practice.