Member's Annual Report amended
Convocation approved amendments to By-Law 17 for the 2005 Member's Annual Report (MAR). By-Law 17 (Filing Requirements) governs the filing of the annual report by members regarding their practices. Changes to the 2005 MAR include new and revised questions along with reformatting to enhance the clarity and user-friendliness of the form.
In an effort to reduce the cost of mailing paper packages to all members, a new question has been added allowing members to indicate a preference regarding e-filing or continuing to receive a paper package.
The definitions, processes, and reporting that will be used for the administration of bencher remuneration were also approved by Convocation.
Convocation approved the motion from the Finance & Audit Committee, with the exception of section G, regarding the entitlement of benchers appointed as the Law Society's representative to external boards to be remunerated by the external board. Convocation adjourned its discussion on this point to a future date.
Under the approved process, elected benchers, former treasurers and ex-officio benchers will be remunerated for eligible activities. Remuneration will be at $300 per half day and $500 per full day, with an annual inflation adjustment or adjustment after review by the Finance & Audit Committee. Remuneration is retroactive to May 28, 2004.
There will be an annual deductible of 26 days before benchers can be remunerated for their time. The remuneration cycle will be based on the bencher year (June 1 to May 31), and eligible activities will include:
- Convocation, meeting of committees, task forces, and working groups, special Convocations, calls to the bar, bencher information sessions, and bencher education sessions
- Hearing panels, appeal panels and pre-hearing conferences
- Meetings attended as the Law Society's official representative at the direction of the Treasurer or Convocation
Ontario lawyers voted 58.14 per cent in favour of, and 41.85 per cent against, a specific proposal for bencher remuneration in a referendum in February 2005.
For further information, view the Finance & Audit Committee Report .
Call to the bar procedure
Convocation approved a call to the bar procedure for the new Licensing Process to provide timely calls for candidates following completion of licensing requirements and a more timely and cost efficient process for the Law Society.
The Licensing Process will begin in May 2006. While ensuring that new lawyers continue to meet high standards of learning and competence, the new process will mean a decrease in licensing fees and enable candidates to be called and begin practising two months sooner.
Under the new call to the bar procedure there will be three in-person calls to the bar each year, in September, January and June. The June calls to the bar will be the ceremonial calls that occur in Ottawa, London and Toronto. September and January calls will occur on regularly scheduled Convocation dates whenever possible.
A new "paper" call to the bar procedure will also be introduced for transfer candidates. Since the introduction of the National Mobility Agreement in 2003, most of the candidates called at monthly meetings of Convocation are transfer candidates, lawyers from other signatory jurisdictions who are eligible for transfer without having to pass examinations. A paper-based call for these transferring lawyers will obviate the need for monthly calls and produce time, resource and cost efficiencies. Paper-based calls are already used in some other Canadian law societies, such as British Columbia. Transfer candidates will be eligible for a live call should they wish to attend one.
Ontario candidates will be required to attend a live call. However, the Director of Professional Development and Competence, or her designate, will have discretion in exceptional circumstances to allow an Ontario candidate to be called to the bar through the paper call.
Amendments to the appropriate by-laws respecting the call to the bar will be drafted and provided to Convocation for approval at a future meeting.
View the Professional Development, Competence and Admissions Committee Report for further details.
Convocation approved the appointment of bencher Marshall Crowe to the Audit Sub-Committee, and the re-assignment of lay bencher Dr. Sy Eber from the Emerging Issues Committee to the Tribunals Committee.
Tsunami relief efforts
The Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee presented a final report to Convocation for information which details the Law Society's work with the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) and Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) to assist those affected by the South and Southeast Asian tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004.
In accordance with Convocation's recommendations adopted in January 2005, the Law Society's tsunami initiative included:
- Community outreach, including three legal information sessions on immigration and refugee law.
- Creation of a telephone line (including a toll-free line) and an e-mail address for members and the public wishing to participate in the initiative, which resulted in over 50 calls and inquiries.
- Compilation of a list of 10 lawyers willing to do pro bono work for people affected by the tsunami that was provided to the public on a case-by-case basis.
- Creation of a booklet of frequently asked questions about the tsunami relating to immigration and refugee law. The FAQs were published in English, French, Tamil and Somali, posted online and distributed to communities.
- Creation and distribution of community notices and news releases about the initiative and information sessions. Materials were posted online and distributed to media and community organizations.
In partnership with SALCO and in celebration of South Asian Heritage Month, the Law Society also hosted a continuing legal education program in May 2005 entitled Immigration and Refugee Law: The Aftermath of the Tsunami.
Full details are in the Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee Report to Convocation.
LAWPRO insurance premiums
Convocation accepted LAWPRO's report at the September meeting, and the 2006 insurance program will be implemented by January 1, 2006. The base liability insurance premium paid by most Ontario lawyers under the Law Society's insurance program will be $2,700 per lawyer in 2006, up $75 from $2,625 in 2005. The three per cent increase in the base premium is in keeping with general increases in the cost of living.
Premiums for many lawyers in 2006 will be below the base premium of $2,700 with some lawyers paying as little as $1,217, depending on the practice and coverage options selected. Premiums for other insurance coverage, transaction levies and discounts will remain the same as they are in 2005.
More information on LAWPRO's Web site at: www.lawpro.ca and in LAWPRO's LAWPRO's Report to Convocation .