Law Society of Upper Canada

Law Society of Upper Canada

November 27, 2008 12:23 ET

Law Society Budget Introduces Minimal Fee Increases for 2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 27, 2009) - The governing body of the Law Society of Upper Canada today approved its 2009 budget with modest annual fee increases of three per cent for lawyers and 6.5 per cent for paralegals. As a result, the 2009 fee for a practising lawyer will increase by $50, from $1,653 to $1,703, while the fee for licensed paralegals will increase by $55, from $845 to $900.

"We're pleased that we were able to keep fee increases for lawyers and paralegals to a minimum, particularly in this uncertain and challenging economic climate," says the Law Society's Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Heins. "Thanks to reserves accumulated in previous years, we have been able to offset larger levy increases for 2009."

Heins says the budget will continue to support the Law Society's core responsibilities, including professional regulation and professional development and competence. "This budget will also fund increased volumes of activity within these areas, as well as new programs that are reflective of the diverse public we serve - as previously approved by our governing body," he adds.

In presenting the 2009 budget to Law Society benchers, Finance Committee Vice-Chair Carol Hartman noted that this is the first time an operating budget for paralegals has been presented in tandem with the budget for the regulation of lawyers.

Highlights of the 2009 budgets are as follows:

- An additional $2.6 million is devoted to the Law Society's regulatory function for lawyers, to deal with mortgage fraud complaints, as well as an overall increase in regulatory complaints.

- A total of $590,000 is dedicated to fund implementation of the lawyer parental leave program as part of the recommendations from the Retention of Women in Private Practice Working Group.

- The Law Society's spot audit program for lawyers will receive a boost of an additional $320,000 to ensure that all law firms undergo an audit within a five-year cycle.

- As an additional part of the Law Society's commitment to quality assurance, funding of $290,000 is allocated to provide more practice management reviews for lawyers. The peer-conducted reviews are designed to help lawyers improve their practice management standards.

- A total of $120,000 will fund the Ontario Civil Legal Needs Project to build a better understanding of the legal needs of low and middle income Ontarians and determine how the legal community can better meet those needs.

- A major component of the 2009 paralegal budget - $1,057,900 - is dedicated to professional regulation. These costs are mainly associated with good character investigations and hearings for grandparent paralegal applicants, as well as other paralegal regulatory expenses.

Hartman also told benchers that Licensing Process candidates will see a $540 reduction in their tuition fees from $2,940 in 2008 to $2,400 in 2009. This is the result of changes to the lawyer licensing process which replaced the four-week Skills & Professional Responsibility Program with a five-day pre-call professional responsibility and practice requirement, along with a post-call professional development requirement of 24 hours within the first 24 months of practice.

The licensing process fee for paralegals will remain the same at $1,075.

"We remain committed to maintaining and, in some cases, enhancing our core programs, to ensure that we continue to govern effectively and efficiently in the public interest," says Law Society Treasurer W.A. Derry Millar. "I want to thank Carol Hartman, the Finance Committee, and its members, together with the staff, who have worked diligently to manage resources and deliver a sustainable budget with only a moderate increase in annual levies."

The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a duty to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

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