Referendum on 2006 Practice Fee
June 1, 2005
The Benchers of the Law Society have called for a referendum of all members to set the Law Society practice fee for 2006 in accordance with section 23(1)(a) of the Legal Profession Act and Rule 1-37 of the Law Society Rules.
Ballots in this referendum must be received by the Law Society Corporate Secretary no later than June 21, 2005. The referendum ballot count will be held on June 22, 2005.
A. Resolution to set the 2006 practice fee
The Benchers have proposed a resolution to set the 2006 practice fee based on the amount of $1,065.50 that the Benchers have determined is required to operate the Law Society and its programs for 2006.
The practice fee includes four components: 1) a Law Society General Fund fee of $825, 2) a BC Courthouse Library Society fee of $160, 3) a Lawyers Assistance program (LAP) fee of $53 and 4) an Advocate subscription of $27.50.
An explanation of each of these components is set in section E of this notice. Members will note that the proposed resolution does not include a proposed CBA fee or fee equivalent. In the fee referendum last year, a majority of the profession approved a fee without a mandatory CBA fee component. The Benchers respect this decision of the profession that the CBA fee should be voluntary, not mandatory.
The Benchers recommend that members vote in favour of the following resolution:
WHEREAS the Benchers have determined that the amount of $1,065.50 per practising lawyer is required to maintain and operate the programs of the Law Society and otherwise to discharge its mandate during the year 2006;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT, for the practice year commencing January 1, 2006, the practice fee be set, pursuant to section 23(1)(a) of the Legal Profession Act, at $1,065.50.
To take effect the above resolution requires approval by a majority of all valid votes cast in this referendum. If the practice fee is not passed in this referendum, the decision on the practice fee for 2006 will need to be made at the AGM in September.
B. Voter qualification
All members of the Society in good standing are eligible to vote in this referendum: see Rule 1-37(2) and Rule 1-24(a).
C. Voting instructions
1. Mark the enclosed referendum ballot paper in accordance with the instructions on it.
2. Place your marked ballot paper in ENVELOPE NO. 1 and seal it.
3. Complete and sign the voting declaration under the flap on ENVELOPE NO. 2.
4. Place sealed ENVELOPE NO. 1 in ENVELOPE NO. 2.
5. Seal ENVELOPE NO. 2, and mail or deliver it to the Corporate Secretary at the Law Society office.
D. Deadline for receipt of ballot papers
In accordance with Law Society Rule 1-27(1)(d), a ballot paper received by the Corporate Secretary on or after the referendum date must be rejected.
For your ballot paper to be counted, it must be received by the Corporate Secretary on or before Tuesday, June 21, 2005.
E. A look at the 2006 practice fee components
The Benchers have determined that $1,065.50 per practising member is required to operate the Law Society and its programs, and to provide funding to the outside programs it supports (the BC Courthouse Library Society, the Lawyers Assistance Program and the Advocate publication) in 2006. This is an increase of $85 from 2005.
The proposed practice fee of $1,065.50 in 2006 includes: 1) a Law Society fee of $825, up $50 from 2005; 2) a BC Courthouse Library Society (BCCLS) fee of $160, up $30 from 2005; 3) a Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP) fee of $53, up $5 from 2005 and 4) an Advocate subscription fee of $27.50, unchanged from 2005. More information on these components is set out in the next section.
1) Law Society fee
The Law Society component of the practice fee supports Law Society General Fund operations and programs.
In each of the past four years, through a combination of reduced expenses and increased revenues, the General Fund has posted a surplus. The 2004 surplus was less than in 2003 and reflects the Benchers’ decision to reduce the 2004 practice fee and contain expenses. In 2005, the Benchers further reduced the practice fee and balanced the budget by including a contribution from the General Fund reserves.
The Benchers believe that a fee increase is needed in 2006 for the Law Society to continue to fulfil its mandate and to operate key programs and initiatives. At the same time, they remain sensitive to financial pressures on the profession and the need to limit the amount of an increase. Accordingly, the 2006 Law Society fee component is proposed at $825 per practising lawyer, a modest increase of $50 per member (6.4%). While the Benchers approved the use of reserves in 2005 and notionally again in 2006, they remain mindful of ensuring that the Society maintains its strong financial position.
As the 2005 fiscal year proceeds, the staff and Benchers will review the year’s financial results and the efficiency and effectiveness of all program areas. The Executive Director will finalize the 2006 operating budget for presentation to the Benchers in November.
The $50 per member increase in the Law Society fee will add approximately $475,000 to the Society’s total revenues and is expected to allow for maintenance of programs, with some reallocations, some inflationary general cost increases and a small contingency amount.
Over the past three years, the Society has held the line on expenses, while program area demands have increased. The Benchers are always looking at improving program efficiency, but regulatory demands are taxing the Society’s resources.
In addition to maintaining core regulatory programs, the Benchers have supported various technology initiatives to help lawyers. In conjunction with other Canadian law societies, and thanks to a funding contribution from the Law Foundation of BC, the Law Society has continued its support of CANLII as a “virtual law library” for the legal profession. The Law Society also continues to work on numerous electronic initiatives aimed at improving efficiencies in the practice of law. The efiling initiative at the Land Title Office (using the Juricert registration system) is now realizing for the Law Society annual revenues of over $100,000.
The Society itself is expanding information to the profession by electronic means. These changes are intended to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of Law Society interactions with the profession and to achieve cost reductions.
Other current Law Society initiatives include improving the trust assurance program, reforming lawyer education and looking at such issues as alternative dispute resolution, independence of the bar and the certification of paralegals.
2) BC Courthouse Library Society fee
The Law Society’s contribution to funding the BC Courthouse Library Society (BCCLS) in 2006 is projected at $160 per practising lawyer, up $30. In 2002, the BCCLS made a commitment to keep funding requests (on a per-lawyer basis) stable for three years, and accordingly did not request an increase for 2003 through 2005.
The cost to administer the BC Courthouse Library collection and online services has increased at a rate greater than inflation over the past few years, in particular because publishers continue to increase the cost of books and subscriptions. While the BCCLS has worked to contain costs, a funding increase is needed in 2006 to maintain services for lawyers across BC and to avoid closing more library locations.
3) Lawyers Assistance Program fee
The funding designated for the Lawyers Assistance Program in 2006 is $53 per practising lawyer, a $5 increase from 2005. The additional funding will be devoted to expanding LAP’s lawyer support services, pool of volunteers and training initiatives.
4) Advocate subscription fee
The subscription fee for the Advocate, distributed bimonthly to all BC lawyers, is $27.50 in 2006, unchanged from 2005.
F. Other fees in 2006
The Law Society’s non-practising membership fee is expected to remain at $300 in 2006 and the retired membership fee is expected to remain at $75, both of which include a subscription to the Advocate.
The Benchers will set the 2006 Special Compensation Fund and Lawyers Insurance Fund fees this fall. Beginning in 2003, the Benchers increased the Special Compensation Fund fee to $600, because of increased claims and investigation costs relating to the practice of Martin Wirick.
While Special Compensation Fund claims costs have increased significantly, the Benchers have elected to finance these over a number of years, having regard both to the stability of the Fund and the interests of BC lawyers. Accordingly, no further Special Compensation Fund fee increase is currently projected for 2006. The Lawyers Insurance Fund fee is expected to remain at $1,500 in 2006, for the sixth year in a row.
If you have any questions about the financial information in this notice, please contact Neil Stajkowski, Chief Financial Officer, by telephone at 604 443-5712 (toll-free in BC 1-800-903-5300), telefax at 604 687-0135 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions on the referendum process, please contact David Newell, Corporate Secretary, by telephone at 604 443-5723 (toll-free in BC 1-800-903-5300), telefax at 604 669-5232 or email at email@example.com.