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LDRC has now established, in conjunction with the Law Society of Manitoba (LSM), a digital ID and encryption system using Entrust hardware and software. The Entrust system provides digital signatures for lawyers in Manitoba and also provides an encryption system to secure confidential communications from one lawyer to another lawyer, or from a lawyer to a client. Similar implementations of the Entrust system are used by the Government of Canada, the Quebec Barreau and Entrust technology provides the digital ID platform for the Ontario Teranet system. During the summer of 2011, LDRC acquired and installed the required Entrust hardware and software. A little while after the system had become  fully operational, in December, 2011, the LSM Benchers passed a resolution endorsing the use of Entrust software as the standard for Manitoba lawyers.

When installed on a lawyer's computer, the Entrust software system provides a unique digital identifier for the lawyer.  The system can also be used to digitally encrypt documents and e-mails, which can then be securely transmitted. Based on discussions with LSM and an appropriate reserve of licenses for government, in the summer of 2012 LDRC formally offered to distribute 375 licenses, at no cost, to members of the profession who LDRC felt could make the best use of them. Lawyers practicing in the Province of Manitoba, who are registered with and regulated by the LSM, are entitled to subscribe for and receive a free copy of the Entrust software (subject, of course, to the terms and conditions set out in the LDRC Subscription Agreement).

Although LDRC has invested significant sums on  the system, its installation and licenses, and while it realizes that these costs will eventually have to be recovered, LDRC also knew that if it was to provide a meaningful service to the legal profession, and to the clients served by the profession, the software had to be distributed as widely as possible and as early as possible. For individual practitioners, upfront cost could not be a deterrent to early adoption.

To subscribe for the software, Manitoba lawyers will be expected to sign the Subscription Agreement available below. The subscription has no initial cost but does provide for some eventual cost recovery.

LDRC initially agreed to reserve 125 licenses for government and other parties (out of its initial total of 500 licenses). As noted above, the remaining 375 licenses were then made available for distribution pursuant to the Subscription Agreement. Licenses are being distributed to those members of the legal profession in Manitoba expressing an interest in pursuing Entrust capabilities, subject to limitations to ensure that the needs of early adopters of courts e-filing initiatives can be met. The allocation of licenses will also be subject to the need of both LDRC and LSM to ensure a broad dispersal within the legal profession in Manitoba. LDRC recognizes that there must be a level playing field among law firms in Manitoba, and that both large firms and small firms must have the opportunity to try out the system and understand its benefits. Also, in the fall of 2012 LDRC acquired an additional 500 licenses (for a total of 1000) to ensure sufficient licenses were available to permit LDRC's various projects to proceed.

Entrust System Details – ID and Encryption Capabilities for Lawyers and Courts/Government

The Entrust installation process for individual computers involves three basic steps:

1.     A “public key” – which is used to encrypt transmissions to a high-level standard – is generated by the subscriber and then stored on the secure LDRC Entrust server.

2.     A decrypting capability (“private key”) is generated and stored on the user computer.

3.     A digital ID for the lawyer (described in more detail below) is created.

The LDRC Entrust server is the hub which coordinates all encrypted messaging, all encrypted file transmission and all digital signature authentication.  Any participant in the LDRC Entrust system can access other participants’ public keys through the LDRC server, and can then encrypt a message to another participant using the public key for that other participant obtained from the LDRC server . Once encrypted, the message can only be read by the participant (recipient) whose public key was used to encrypt the message (decryption takes place through use of the private key that the receiving participant has retained).

In addition to the encryption features available to participants among themselves, LDRC has also acquired an Entrust Mail Server ("EMS") located at LDRC's premises which will allow a lawyer to communicate with a non-participant (such as a client) via a secure webmail system. A message sent to a non-participant using the EMS will be encrypted using a temporary public key issued to the recipient of the message. The EMS requires a few extra steps because the recipient needs to be told that a message is waiting, needs to be told the web site address and needs to be given a password. However, once the recipient has logged into the server, he or she can receive encrypted messages and can send encrypted replies back to the sender using the EMS. Using this system, the client can be assured that the author of the e-mail is a lawyer entitled to practice law in Manitoba, and that the sender of the e-mail is in fact the lawyer identified as the sender.

Digital IDs and E-filing Initiatives

As noted, the Entrust software also creates a Digital ID. This ID permits a digital signature, assigned to a specific Manitoba lawyer in good standing with the LSM, to be attached to e-filings or e-mails. In the one case described below where an e-filing protocol has already been established, LDRC has also set up a billing arrangement tied to the Digital IDs so that e-filings can be made and then billed back to the applicable firm by LDRC (LDRC guarantees payment to the e-filing recipient and makes initial payment). LDRC will pursue a similar arrangement in its discussions with other government departments.

As you may already have read in the Continuing Professional Development Program Updates from the LSM, there is an e-filing initiative in progress on a pilot basis in Manitoba for the Courts and there are discussions under way to use the same system for other departments of the provincial government. In many, if not all, of these e-filing systems, it is necessary for the recipient Court or department to be assured that an e-filing is coming from a lawyer entitled to practice law in Manitoba and the Digital ID solves that problem.

LDRC intends to recover its costs over an extended period through modest fees added on to electronic filing fees (which would, in turn, be recovered by the firm as a disbursement billed to the client). Since LDRC is a non-profit corporation (and a corporation which reports to the LSM), it is able to spread the recovery process over various different departmental e-filing systems, thereby keeping fees to a minimum. Nevertheless, the Subscription Agreement does state that annual fees may have to be charged for the software licenses, as a last resort, if cost recovery cannot be achieved by other means.

Subscription Agreement

For those lawyers who wish to put their names forward, the Subscription Agreement is available under the "subscribe" tab, by mail, or by email. If your subscription is accepted, LDRC will contact you and provide you with the required software and installation instructions. 

Questions can be directed to the LDRC office, 204 984 9840 (or toll-free for rural practitioners, 800 463 4816).