In Law Society of Alberta v. Beaver, 2016 ABCA 290, the Alberta Court of Appeal
held that suspended lawyers are not entitled to act as “legal
agents,” a limited status in which the agent can represent
another person in Provincial Court or at tribunals where
representation by non-lawyers is permitted. In coming to this
conclusion, the Court of Appeal recognized regulators have robust
implied powers to ensure that the primary objective of protecting
the public is achieved.
Shawn Beaver was a criminal defence lawyer in Edmonton whose
membership in the Law Society of Alberta was suspended on an
interim basis during an investigation into professional misconduct.
While suspended, Beaver began operating a website, “Beaver
Legal Consulting,” in which he offered services as a
“legal agent.” While the website provided a disclaimer
that Beaver was “currently not licensed to practice
law” and “facing an interim suspension imposed by the
Law Society of Alberta,” the Law Society of Alberta was
concerned that Beaver was acting as a barrister and solicitor
contrary to the Legal Profession Act
The Law Society applied for an injunction to prevent Beaver from
practicing as a barrister and solicitor, from rendering legal
services to any person, and from providing any of the services
described on the “Beaver Legal Consulting” website. The
Law Society argued that no lawyer, active or suspended, could act
as a “legal agent.” Beaver argued that he was
entitled to act as an agent just as any non-lawyer was entitled to
The injunction was granted and Beaver appealed. The Court of
Appeal concluded that a suspended lawyer is not permitted to act as
a legal agent. It found that Beaver, although not allowed to
practice as a barrister and solicitor as a result of his
suspension, remained a barrister and solicitor and subject to the
LPA and the Law Society’s regulation. Because a
suspended lawyer is still a “barrister and solicitor,”
he or she is unable to take on the separate designation of
“agent.” To allow a member of the Law Society to adopt
two roles with vastly different obligations and duties was
inconsistent with the primary objective of the LPA, namely
the protection of the public. The public cannot reasonably be
expected to understand the distinction between someone acting as a
legal agent and someone acting as a barrister and solicitor.
This decision is highly specific to the language of the
LPA and the context of the practice of law. As a result,
it has limited application to other professions and regulators.
However, the Court of Appeal also comments on the implied authority
of regulators to prevent practice by suspended members and to seek
The Court of Appeal concluded that even if the language of the
LPA did not prevent suspended members from acting as
agents, the Law Society had “jurisdiction by necessary
implication” to prevent a suspended lawyer from acting as a
legal agent. This authority would be practically necessary for the
Law Society to ensure that the primary objective of protecting the
public was achieved.
Similarly, the Court of Appeal concluded that, even if the
LPA had not provided explicit authority for the Law
Society to seek an injunction, the Law Society had implied
standing. Public bodies like the Law Society are not ordinary
litigants, as they are tasked with enforcing professional standards
with the objective of protecting the public.
The Court of Appeal’s decision will have limited
application to most regulators and professions since it is based on
the specific language of the LPA and since most regulatory
legislation explicitly prohibits suspended members from practicing
and authorizes injunctions. Nevertheless, the Court’s
decision is a robust interpretation of the implied powers of a
regulator to protect the public even in the absence of explicit
A careful case-by-case examination is required before
interpreting legislation to imply a power.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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