TORONTO, Nov. 27, 2020 /CNW/ – Today, the Law Society of Ontario’s governing body (Convocation) approved the organization’s 2021 budget, which reduces annual fees for licensees, continues the operational focus on proportionate regulation and burden reduction, and decreases the Society’s overall spending on operations.

Further, the additional levy to replenish the Compensation Fund has been eliminated. After significant claims experience in 2014 to 2016 due to some major defalcations, an additional $5 million was levied from lawyers in each of the last three years to replenish the fund balance of the Compensation Fund, which had fallen below its minimum benchmark required under the Law Society’s fund balance management policy.

As a result of these changes, and the reduction in expenditures, the annual fees that Ontario lawyers and paralegals will pay will decrease for the second year in a row. In 2021, lawyers will see a decrease of $193, for an annual fee of $1,873, while paralegals will see a decrease of $42, for an annual fee of $964.

As well, the current licensing process fee for lawyer candidates remains the same as it has been for the past seven years; paralegal licensing fees also remain unchanged.

Budgetary expenses facilitate the LSO’s ability to regulate the legal professions in the public interest. This includes funding the Compensation Fund which provides for payments to be made to members of the public who have lost money because of the dishonesty of a member, and responding to strategic issues like contingency fee reform and delivering programs such as the Practice Management Helpline, the Member Assistance Program and the other resources.

“In the development of the 2021 Law Society of Ontario budget, we have focused on balancing the impact of unanticipated challenges with the need to modernize – responses to COVID-19 and ongoing consideration of strategic changes targeted at proportionate regulation,” said Law Society Chief Executive Officer Diana Miles. “With indicators that a return to normalcy is still a long way off, this budget has been developed with an awareness of the need to reduce expenses, balanced with realistic expectations for progression and continuity in business divisions.”

“The Law Society’s 2021 budget ensures the organization is well-positioned to fulfill its mandate to regulate the legal professions in Ontario in the public interest, while also supporting our members and taking into consideration the challenges that many lawyers and paralegals are facing as a result of COVID-19,” said Treasurer Teresa Donnelly. “I would like to extend my appreciation to CEO Diana Miles, the Law Society’s leadership team and Joe Groia, Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee. They have brought forward a budget that is strong and strategic. Our 2021 budget will ensure we are well-placed as a forward-facing, streamlined and responsive regulator.”

 The report to Convocation on the 2021 budget is available online.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response Fund

Convocation also approved a plan to facilitate the deferral of 2021 Annual Fees to 2022 to assist licensees most impacted by the pandemic. The program is available upon application where the licensee’s annual fees are paid directly by the licensee or are paid on the licensee’s behalf by a small legal or paralegal firm, and for:

  • Licensees in sole practices licensed in 2018 or earlier whose gross revenue for 2020 from the practice of law or the provision of legal services has declined by more than 50% in comparison to that of the 2019 calendar year, and whose gross revenue from the practice of law or provision of legal services in the 2020 calendar year is less than $50,000
  • Licensees licensed in 2018 or earlier, practising in firms of two to five licensees whose gross revenue for 2020 from the firm’s practice of law or the provision of legal services has declined by more than 50% in comparison to that of the 2019 calendar year, and the firm’s gross revenue from the practice of law or provision of legal services in the 2020 calendar year is less than $50,000 times the number of licensees in the firm
  • Licensees first licensed in the years from 2019 to 2021, the licensee’s gross income from all sources in 2020 is less than $50,000.

There will be a simple application process with licensees attesting to meeting the eligibility criteria and no requirement for the submission of supporting documentation. More information about the process and the application for deferral will be available on the Law Society’s website as soon as possible.

Licensees not meeting the criteria, but seeking some form of assistance, may opt for the monthly Pre-authorized Payment plan to smooth the payment of annual fees over the year. In addition, those licensees who are not working or on parental leave should report their change in status in order to be eligible to pay annual fees at the 25% fee category.

The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a mandate 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.

SOURCE The Law Society of Ontario

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