The impact of the COVID – 19 virus is unprecedented and has necessitated The Law Society of Manitoba reviewing its contingency plans and business processes.

We will be implementing some measures in the next few days in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus to our staff, the legal profession and to the public.

In the interim we wish to provide you with information in a timely way to assist you in managing your own practices. While the situation is a fluid one, at present please note the following:

Law Society Operations

The Law Society Is encouraging our staff to work from home where they are able to do so.

You may continue to communicate with us by email or telephone. Please check our website for further information to access contact information for the department you wish to contact.

Law Society Events

All in person meetings and events scheduled to be held at the Law Society between now and April 30, 2020 are postponed with the exception of the April 23, 2020 Bencher meeting which will proceed via teleconference. These postponements include the April 17, 2020 CPD program on the New Divorce Act Amendments. All individuals directly impacted by a postponement will be contacted. Going forward we are working on enhancing our capacity for remote attendance at both meetings and continuing professional development programs.

Law Society Fees

We have received inquiries from members of the profession who are concerned about their ability to pay their practising fees in the event that they are unable to continue to deliver services over the next few weeks or months. Practising fees are presently due April 1, 2020. The Law Society is prepared to waive any late payment penalties and extend time for payment to April 30, 2020. We will reassess at that time in the event that the situation has not resolved.

Law Courts
Please refer to the following notices with respect to matters in:

Managing your Practice

Every firm should have a plan in place for managing unexpected practice interruptions. For further information please see here.

Library Services

At present the library is open for business, however, we encourage members to use remote access, starting with the collection available behind the Member’s Portal. For help navigating these resources, please refer to our guide, “Accessing Library Resources behind the Member’s Portal”, located on our Legal Ease page at lawlibrary.ca.

We will continue to distribute the newsletters in our Current Awareness collection. Please review all we offer in case there are others you would like to start receiving.

We can also make our print collection as accessible as possible, by scanning or downloading sections that you need, and emailing them to you, subject to licensing and copyright restrictions. If you need an entire text, we can prepare it for pick up at the staff entrance on Kennedy Street, so you are not required to enter the building.

Please contact us by phone (204-945-1958) or email (library@lawsociety.mb.ca) for any of your legal research needs.

Witnessing Documents
We have received inquiries about the possibility of witnessing clients’ document execution electronically. The Manitoba Evidence Act, together with The Real Property Act do not permit an affidavit or statutory declaration to be sworn, affirmed or declared electronically. As this is mandated by legislation, the Law Society does not have the jurisdiction to waive this requirement.

What can be done?

Maximize non-face to face communications

  • Documents can be sent to clients electronically, along with written explanatory materials describing the nature and effect of the documents.
  • Schedule follow-up telephone calls with clients for the asking and answering of any questions

Minimize Personal Contact

  • Limit in-person meetings to 10 minutes, and confine your activity to the verification of identity and document execution steps which require personal attendance
  • Maintain the recommended 1 metre distance between yourself and the clients
  • Follow all other precautionary protocols set out by public health authorities, including washing your hands thoroughly after each meeting

Postpone when necessary

  • There may be circumstances where you cannot safely meet with your client, including cases where your client is hospitalized or quarantined or is incapable of attending to execution due to illness. In those circumstances, closings will need to be postponed just as in the event of any other unforeseen disability. Extend to other lawyers the same courtesy and cooperation you would expect when such postponements become necessary.

Anti-Money Laundering Requirements

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 by 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 who is a reporting entity to FINTRAC (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 current and original;
  • 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;
  • 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.

Bencher Election

The 2020 Bencher Election will proceed as scheduled. All nominations of candidates must be received by the Law Society on or before April 2, 2020. In light of the potential for office closures and quarantines, nominations will only be received electronically at drossol@lawsociety.mb.ca.