Referendum on 2005 Practice Fee and Mandatory or Voluntary Payment of CBA Fee
June 1, 2004
The Benchers of the Law Society have called for a referendum of all members to set the Law Society practice fee for 2005 and determine whether payment of an amount equivalent to the Canadian Bar Association membership fee should be mandatory or voluntary for all practising lawyers. This referendum is held in accordance with section 23(1)(a) of the Legal Profession Act and Rule 1-37 of the Law Society Rules.
A. Alternative resolutions for setting the practice fee
The Benchers have proposed two alternative resolutions to set the 2005 practice fee. Both are based on the amount of $980.50 that the Benchers have determined is required to operate the Law Society and its programs for 2005.
Resolution A would require practising lawyers to pay the amount recommended for Law Society purposes ($980.50) plus an amount equivalent to the CBA membership fee, which is $497.70 ($293.70 for members in their first five years of practice), for a total mandatory fee of $1,478.20 or $1,274.20.
Resolution B would require practising lawyers to pay a fee at the amount recommended for Law Society purposes ($980.50) and would not include an amount equivalent to the CBA membership fee.
The Benchers recommend that members vote for one of Resolution A or Resolution B.
If you are in favour of requiring all practising lawyers to pay an amount equivalent to the CBA membership fee, vote for Resolution A.
If you are not in favour of requiring all practising lawyers to pay an amount equivalent to the CBA membership fee, vote for Resolution B.
You also have the option of voting not to approve either resolution in this referendum. Please note that, if neither Resolution A nor Resolution B achieves a majority of all valid votes cast in this referendum, the decision on the practice fee for 2005 will have 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 yourmarked 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 behalf of the Executive Director) 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 22, 2004.
E. Background information
Mandatory or voluntary payment of CBA fee
Members interested in background information on the issue of mandatory or voluntary payment of the CBA fee as a component of the Law Society practice fee may wish to consult summaries of the 2003 Law Society Annual General Meeting at which the issue was debated. For reference, the AGM minutes from September 19 and October 27, 2003 (continuation of meeting), as well as a transcript of the AGM debate from September 19, are available in the "What's new" section of the Law Society website at www.lawsociety.bc.ca.
The BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association, in its most recent issue of BarTalk, has published articles on both points of view on this question. These can be reviewed at www.bccba.org.
Fee amounts for 2005
As noted, the Benchers have determined that $980.50 is required to operate the Law Society and its programs for 2005, a decrease of $47 from 2004. This includes a Law Society fee of $775 per practising lawyer, down $50 from 2004; a BC Courthouse Library Society (BCCLS) fee of $130, unchanged from 2004; a Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP) fee of $48, up $3 from 2004 and an Advocate subscription fee of $27.50, unchanged from 2004. More information on these components is set out in the next section of this notice.
The 2005 Canadian Bar Association fee is $497.70 (for members in practice five full years or more), up $32.29 from 2004, and $293.70 (for members in practice less than five full years), up $17.29 from 2004. More information on the CBA fee is available on the CBA BC Branch website at www.bccba.org.
F. A look at the 2005 Law Society fee and related fees
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 three years, through a combination of reduced expenses and increased revenues, the General Fund has posted a surplus. In recognition of this improved financial position and the fact that BC lawyers have been asked to shoulder the burden of increased Special Compensation Fund fees for 2003 and 2004, the Benchers have decided to reduce the Law Society fee for a second consecutive year. Given the increase in General Fund surplus, the Benchers have asked staff to review program areas and to propose use of the surplus to meet targeted objectives. In November, the Benchers will receive a final 2005 operating budget from the Executive Director.
Accordingly, the 2005 Law Society fee component is proposed at $775 per practising lawyer, a $50 decrease from 2004. The Benchers have determined that this amount is needed for a continuation of key Law Society programs and initiatives. Revenue projections for 2005 will be based on membership growth less than that in previous years.
2) BC Courthouse Library Society fee
The funding designated for the BC Courthouse Library Society in 2005 is $130 per practising lawyer, unchanged from 2003. In 2002, the BCCLS made a commitment to keep funding requests (on a per-lawyer basis) stable for three years, and accordingly has not requested an increase for 2005.
3) Lawyers Assistance Program fee
The funding designated for the Lawyers Assistance Program in 2004 is $48 per practising lawyer, a $3 increase from 2004. 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, a bimonthly legal journal distributed to all BC lawyers, is $27.50 in 2005, unchanged from 2004.
5) Other fees in 2005
The Law Society's non-practising membership fee is expected to remain at $300 in 2005 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 2005 Special Compensation Fund and Lawyers Insurance Fund fees this fall. Because of increased claims and investigation costs relating to the practice of Martin Wirick, the Benchers increased the Special Compensation Fund fee to $600 for 2003 and 2004. 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 2005. The Lawyers Insurance Fund fee is expected to remain at $1,500 in 2005, for the sixth year in a row.
G. A look at Law Society expenditures in 2005
Although the proposed Law Society fee component will decrease by $50 in 2005, fee revenues are expected to allow for maintenance of programs, with some reallocations, general cost increases and a small contingency amount.
In addition to maintaining core regulatory programs, the Benchers are supporting 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 Society also continues its financial support to the BC Courthouse Library Society, which is offering new online services. Finally, the Law Society continues to work on Juricert and numerous electronic initiatives aimed at improving efficiencies in the practice of law, such as electronic filings at the Land Title Office.
The Law Society itself is planning to expand the distribution of information to the profession by electronic means and to introduce more online filings for lawyers and law firms. These changes are intended to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of Law Society interactions with the profession and to achieve cost reductions.
The Law Society continues to work on initiatives in support of interprovincial mobility for lawyers, to improve its trust assurance program, to reform lawyer education and to look at such issues as alternative dispute resolution, independence of the bar and the certification of paralegals.
As noted, a final Law Society budget for 2005 will be discussed at the Benchers meeting in November.
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.