LSO should provide funding to support its prime mandates in the public interest: regulation, competence, equity and access to justice. Within those broad parameters, issues are constantly arising in the course of annual budget considerations with respect to what specific funding allocations should be made. Obviously, these are most appropriately determined within the context of a fully informed discussion in Convocation.
The LSO’s funding priorities ought to be driven by its legislative mandate. Every materials budget decision should include an explanation as to how the program or initiative fulfills the LSO’s statutory mandate.
The Law Society also needs to streamline operations by adopting modern technology. Our steadily increasing annual fees should not be considered an infinite revenue source for the Law Society. The goal is to streamline processes to obtain a leaner and more cost-effective Law Society by looking at annual revenues generated and reduction of associated costs.
The LSO has become the subject of legitimate criticism that its fees are too high and that it has fallen victim to “mission creep” by exceeding the limits of its mandate. In the normal course of its budget process, there should be a line-by-line review of its expenditures with a few to eliminating unnecessary and duplicative costs. This should, and probably is, done as a matter of course. In addition, each expense should be considered in light of whether it advances the LSO’s core mandate. For example, the LSO should not spend funds on advocacy initiatives, where those initiatives are, or could be seen, to,merely advance the interests of lawyers, rather than the public they serve. Apart from advocacy, I wonder about the utility of continuing to fund libraries, where most research has moved to digital resources. If nothing else, this is worthy of debate.
The LSO has a mandate to ensure that its members are competent and capable of serving the public. To help achieve this goal, the Law Society needs to ensure that local law libraries are sufficiently funded. As well, the LSO should consider incentive programs to solos and small firms to take on articling students to help address the shortage of articling opportunities for graduates. Claire Wilkinson The LSO has a mandate to ensure that its members are competent and capable of serving the public. To help achieve this goal, the Law Society needs to ensure that local law libraries are sufficiently funded. As well, the LSO should consider incentive programs to solos and small firms to take on articling students to help address the shortage of articling opportunities for graduates.
The funding priorities of the Law Society should be and generally are aligned with the core mission of the Law Society – ensuring that its members are competent and capable of serving the public. In aid of this mission, the Law Society should enhance funding to local county law associations as they are the front line support for sole and small firms serving the public throughout Ontario.
I want to see significant and drastic cuts to spending. As mentioned above, we cannot continue to treat lawyers (particularly recent calls) as endless means of revenue. Yes this may require some tough decisions but it does not mean that lawyers won’t fill in the gaps. We are charitable people and the LSO does not need to subsidize us to realize that. I would like to see fees cut in half by 2023.
The LSO should fund internal initiatives prior to funding any external programs
Just as access to justice has generated the need to simplify and streamline the justice systems while ensuring fairness and equity, LSO fees and LawPro insurance premiums must reflect the need to allocate resources in an efficient yet effective manner , incorporating advanced technology, best practices and risk management tools. Funding priorities should be consistent with core mandates, yet reflect legitimate concerns and needs of the profession from across the province. Governance, CBER and discipline reforms should lead to reduced costs. Benchers with budgeting and expenditure control experience should be given positions of responsibility and accountability on the Audit and Finance Committee.
The newly elected benchers must sit down and discuss this item as soon as possible. I have heard from several members that the fees are a concern. We must always try to minimize fees and ensure the funding is being spent to meet the LSO’s mandate as efficiently as possible.
Some of its funding priorities are misplaced.
I don’t support taxing the profession to support Pro Bono Ontario. I believe this should be a broader government responsibility.
The LSO’s expenditures have nearly doubled in the last five years, during which time it has gone from a budget surplus of about $1.5 million to a nearly $9,000,000 projected deficit. The LSO has budgeted for 615 full time employees for 2019. It will spend about $70 million on salaries alone and about $72.5 million on program and operating expenses for a total expenditure of $142,535,700 in 2019. That’s the annual membership payments from about 52,000 lawyers – which happens to be about the number of lawyers who are members of the LSO. Its governance is enormous and expensive. It has 40 elected lawyer benchers, 5 elected paralegal benchers, 8 lay benchers, and numerous Appointed, Ex-Officio and Honorary Benchers. I want to learn more about how the LSO is organized and what everyone is doing and how they serve the profession and the public through the LSO’s various initiatives. This is a first step to ensuring maximum efficiency in enhancing access to justice for everyone.
I believe that LSO should make access to legal services a priority. For example, a $10-$15 per year levy would completely fund Pro Bono Ontario (which requires $500,000 per year to continue provide service to some 29,000 people each year). There are numerous organizations that provide legal services to those who can not afford them, and I believe it is our duty as lawyers to see to it that these programs continue, whether that be by way of financial contribution or by way of volunteer hours.
Scrutiny over priorities should foreground public interest.
A2J and advancing guidance and training re technology. I believe the second will function to increase the first.
Supporting lawyers in their practice in meaningful ways. LSO too often seems like an enemy rather than a resource for lawyers. This can and should change. LSO should be championing lawyers to the public in the way other regulators do for their professionals.
I believe there are many LSO projects currently being funded that need to be examined; are they still relevant, or can we replace it by funding a project that is relevant to today’s priorities.
Continual review of funding is necessary to ensure that expenditures address the LSO’s core raison d’etre — regulation of the profession and protection of the public. But funding needs to relate to the core LSO mandate and not become ad hoc and unfocused.
The LSO has a duty to the public and in discharging that duty must take steps to facilitate access to justice. Funding should be directed in that manner. Mission creep is to be avoided as a matter of good governance.
The LSO increasingly appears to be an organization that burns dues money and emits marketing material. It runs a deficit despite having a budget set at almost one hundred and fifty million dollars, which is completely unacceptible. Increasingly, we can observe dues and fees monies being spent on line items of questionable value, such as public awareness campaigns for the LSO itself and a remarkably expensive rebranding campaign. The question is whether we are prepared to do something about it, in what might be the last election where this remains possible.
The fundamental work of the Law Society is (i) ensuring that appropriately qualified lawyers are licensed and that licensed lawyers practice competently and conduct themselves professionally and (ii) determining which legal services should only be provided by licensees and the scopes of practice of licensees. Funding this work should be the priority.
I support the Parental Leave Assistance Program. It is important for soles and smalls. Practitioners who are not employee associates might have no income at all during any parental leave they wish to take. If we can help with this, it’s the right thing to do.
Competence and discipline are core responsibilities that consume the largest part of our revenue. These two areas are key public protection measures and must remain our priorities.
LSO has declared the following 5 strategic priorities for the period ending in 2019:
1.Leading as a professional regulator
2.Increasing organizational effectiveness
Prioritizing life-long competence for licensees
4.Engaging stakeholders and the public
5.Enhancing access to justice
There is much that can be said about each of these priorities. My main critique is on the access to justice priority, which emphasized increased collaboration with access to justice organizations. The goal of increased access to justice is one I strongly support and is why I ran. However, the plan to meet that goal is underdeveloped and does not have the necessary commitment of funding to make a real difference in this area.
We must look at the core values of the LSO mandate and concentrate on those. The billboard and subway advertisement did not have the effect it was desired to have and did not go beyond the GTA.
It has been mentioned that part of the high cost of legal services is due in part to the expenses that lawyers and paralegals have to pay every year and these costs are recouped through fees to our clients. By decreasing or stabilizing these fees the savings would be passed to our clients.
The LSO has become a tax and spend instrument of social policy, rather than a legal regulator regulating in the public interest. At an annual budget of $142M, the LSO has become another layer of government pursuing its own social policy initiatives in duplication of, and sometimes competitive with, government. Examples of unnecessary funding include: CPD (leave it to private providers), advertising standards (govt), marketing (not required), Canlii (govt or private provider), Harassment and Discrimination Counsel (OHRT, courts).
The LSO has way too many priorities, which goes a long way to explaining the recurring deficits.
Too many and too much.
The cost of Society membership fees and malpractice insurance is grossly excessive. Every function of the Society ought to be carefully scrutinized in an effort to reduce the size and cost of the Society’s bureaucracy. For example, maybe the Society could utilize a collective management model and do without a CEO and a Treasurer.
The Society should undertake an intensive examination of its practices, with a view to developing “best practices” for the operation of the Society. That means ensuring that members are never treated as ‘guilty until proven innocent’ by the Society; according members and the public the most open and accommodating access to due process that human ingenuity can devise; and ensuring strict confidentiality – so a member can write in confidence to a Society staffer or officer and have that confidence respected.
Again, thinking of the LSO as a Corporation, we are its shareholders. We need to determine where money is being spent and whether or not it is a wise use of our moneys. To do so, we need to seriously nail down what the LSO’s mandate is and should be, once and for all and then, operate within that lane.
The LSO has expanded into many areas that fall outside it core mandate, which is to regulate the profession in a manner that protects the public. I therefore again agree with my fellow candidate Orlando Da Silva that there should be a line-by-line review of its expenditures with a view to eliminating unnecessary and duplicative costs if it is not already being done.
The LSO should receive less funding, and annual fees should be reduced. Did you know that our annual fees of $2,183.00 are higher than doctors ($1,725.00), dentists ($200.00), nurses ($226.00) and teachers ($150.00). Are our wages and benefits?
I believe that this should be driven by data and risk. The LSO needs to determine what activities or areas pose the most risk to the public. The LSO then needs to invest its resources into those areas so that licensees do not find themselves in trouble and clients do not find themselves being served by incompetent licensees.
The LSO’s budget and funding should prioritize the mandates set out in its statute: facilitating access to justice and legal services for the people of Ontario.
LSO needs to become a lean advanced technological organization to operate with fewer employees and stable if not lower annual fees without deficits. There should be a cap on the number of LSO employees at 600 – if priorities change, reorganize the existing work force. Lawyers are continually challenged to do more with less. So should the administration of LSO.
Let’s face the fact that we lawyers have very little control over LSO administration who run the show – control of LSO by benchers is a joke. Currently the elected benchers are not organized to supervise the continually growing administrative staff at LSO. That is why we need a full time 5 bencher Executive Committee to oversee the financial business of LSO. LSO should shift its focus to helping lawyers improve their practices, instead of the current approach of militaristic and threatening regulation by the administration. CPD programming should be on a not-for-profit basis so that the annual hourly requirements can be increased. Better trained lawyers will deliver better services to the public. If LSO HELPS and SUPPORTS lawyers to adopt new technology, the public will be better served.
I propose an immediate freeze on member fees until 2023 to force the LSO to live within its means.
I would also direct staff to implement “”value for money”” audits on all LSO programs. Programs which do not provide value of money and which do not have clear, measurable definitions of success are to be cancelled.
We need to get our own house in order first. Then we can sort out funding priorities.
For too long the LSO has seen the membership as an eternal magic money tree – that must stop.
LSO should focus on its core legislative mandate of ensuring that those who provide legal services in Ontario meet standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct. We must support pro bono legal services, county law libraries, and diversity initiatives. However, a 2019 budget of more than $142 million dollars shows that LSO is out of touch with the profession it governs.
We should stop spending money on “branding” advertising. The articling system, if it’s to be saved, will likely somehow have to be subsidized by the profession as a whole, and we should indeed save the articling system (for all bar admission aspirants), if that’s possible. I look forward to more discussion in this area, as the various bencher candidates delve more deeply into Law Society finances. I must say that I am alarmed at the size of The Law Society’s budget.
Access to justice
Improvements to the licensing exam
I would prioritize an in-depth scrutiny of current initiatives receiving funding and promote funding that aims to make the LSO a better resource for practicing lawyers. Approximately a third of the budget is spent on discipline and investigation. I think it would be in everyone’s interest to reallocate some of those resources to proactive measures which will help members avoid getting in trouble in the first place.
The LSO funding priorities should follow the mandate of the LSO under the Law Society Act. Our obligation is to ensure those who practice law or provide legal services do so in a competent manner, advance the cause of justice and rule of law, facilitate access to justice, and protect the public while acting in a timely, open and efficient manner.
The funding priorities are set out in the LSO’s budget.
The LSO must fund its core mission.
Should be driven by data, study and careful assessment so that money is spent wisely. Devrait être baser sur les faits, et étudier soigneusement pour assurer des dépenses rentables.
While admittedly simplistic, the order in which I would approach this issue is to first understand a fair budget and then work backwards from there.
Jettison all the spending associated with social activism and items outside of LSO’s jurisdiction. Reduce staff and bring staff salaries into line. For example, no member of the staff should make more than the Clerk of Canada’s Privy Council – about $240,000. This will allow a reduction in fees.
I believe that the funding priorities for the LSO should include: (1) Greater standardized, consistent and competency building in legal training through subsidizing an across the board training regime for all licensing candidates, such an LPP for all model; (2) greater funds for an LSO advocacy role geared towards lobbying the provincial government in relation to maintaining and creating more resources for Legal Aid Ontario; (3) implementation of equity measures identified in the 2016 Report of the Racialized Lawyers Working Group.