Special Compensation Fund and other fees for 2003

October 9, 2002

At their October 4 meeting, the Benchers set the Special Compensation Fund fee for 2003 at $600 and the base Lawyers Insurance Fund fee at $1,500. The practice fee for 2003 will be $1,538.94 (for lawyers in practice five years or more) and $1,369.94 (for lawyers called less than five years), as set by lawyers at the September 20 Annual General Meeting.

Special Compensation Fund

The Special Compensation Fund assessment will increase by $350, from $250 to $600 in 2003. Contrary to a story in the October 4 issue of the Lawyers Weekly newspaper, the Benchers are not considering imposing a $4,600 assessment on lawyers. (The Lawyers Weekly apologizes to the profession for any confusion this article may have caused.)

The increase in the Special Compensation Fund fee is needed to cover audit and investigation costs, to pay claims and to increase the Special Compensation Fund reserves.

All claims arising from the practice of former lawyer Martin Wirick will be attributed to the Special Compensation Fund 2002 claims year. At present, the Special Compensation Fund's reserves and the Fund's insurance are in excess of $20 million.

The Law Society's analysis of total net claims against the Fund respecting Mr. Wirick will take some time to complete because of overlapping claims and repayments, the complexity of the claims and the availability of recoveries. As these matters become clearer through the Law Society's audit and investigation, the Benchers will consider if and when further financing for the Special Compensation Fund is required and what options are preferable.

The Law Society will keep lawyers updated on the issue, both in the Benchers' Bulletin and on the Law Society's website at www.lawsociety.bc.ca.

Practice fee

As noted, lawyers at the September 20 Annual Meeting approved a 2003 practice fee of $1,538.94 (for lawyers in practice five years or more) and $1,369.94 (for lawyers called less than five years).

As set out in materials circulated for the AGM, the Law Society component of that fee, which funds the Society's General Fund operations, is $903, up $21 (2.4%) from 2002. Other components of the 2003 practice fee are: an Advocate subscription fee of $27.50, up $2.50, an amount equivalent to the CBA membership fee of $441.44 for members in practice at least five full years, up $32.34 (7.9%) (or $272.44 for members in practice less than five full years, up $17.34 (6.8%)), a Lawyers Assistance Program fee of $37, up $4 (12.1%) and a BC Courthouse Library fee of $130, which did not increase.

Liability Insurance Fund assessment

In 2003, for the fourth year in a row, the Benchers have set the base professional liability insurance assessment for B.C. lawyers in private practice at $1,500.

The part-time insurance fee for 2003 remains at $750 and the insurance surcharge (which applies for five years to lawyers with paid indemnity claims, in accordance with Rule 3-26(2)) remains at $1,000.

The profession has enjoyed a stable insurance assessment because of strong reserves in the Lawyers Insurance Fund, effective management of the Fund and relative stability in claims and losses.