2005 Law Society fees are due November 30, 2004

Beginning this year, the annual billing for all Law Society membership fees (including the first insurance instalment payable by insured practising members) will be due on November 30 for the following year. Accordingly, members can expect to receive their 2005 fee billing notices in October this year, with a payment due date of November 30, 2004.

In past years, members had until December 31 to pay Law Society fees for the following year. Members who renewed between January 1 and January 31 were assessed a late payment fee, and those who did not renew by January 31 ceased membership.

This year members are expected to renew by the November 30 due date. If a member renews late (between December 1 and December 31), he or she must pay a late payment fee: Rule 2-72(1). That fee, however, is now lower than in previous years. The late payment fee will be $100 for practising members (down from $200) and $25 for non-practising members (down from $75). There will be no late payment fee for retired members, who previously paid $25. All members who have not renewed by December 31 will have their membership terminated.

In moving up the date for payment of fees, the Benchers are sensitive to the fact that this timing may impact on the cash flow of some lawyers this year. The change, however, is necessary. There were significant problems associated with permitting late renewals in January of the membership year, in particular for practising members.

Until a practising member actually paid all the necessary fees, his or her membership status was uncertain. A lawyer who paid by January 31 was deemed to be a member in good standing during the period for which fees remained unpaid (in other words, the lawyer's membership was made retroactive to January 1). If a lawyer failed to pay by January 31, however, he or she ceased membership. Such a lawyer may have practised law during the month of January without being licensed or insured to do so. The Benchers have concluded that such an anomaly is not in the interests of the profession and does not protect the public.

By setting an earlier fee payment date of November 30, 2004 and by lowering late payment fees, the Benchers have sought to establish a fair billing timeline and ensure reasonable penalties.

The Benchers have also amended the rules on applications for an extension to pay fees. A lawyer may apply for an extension of time to pay fees, or to have the late fee waived or reduced, provided special circumstances exist and provided the application is made before December 31 (since the lawyer's membership will cease after that date). Applications for an extension will now be reviewed by staff since the discretion rests with the Executive Director, rather than with the Chair of the Credentials Committee or (in the case of waiving late fees) with the Executive Committee: Rule 2-72(2) and (7).

Lawyers who are appointed to the Bench, pass away or cease membership by reason of total incapacity will be entitled to a prorated return of membership fees, less the CBA component (if applicable) and a modest administrative fee: Rule 2-75(3). Previously, such refunds were reduced by the amount of a prorated non-practising fee. The effect of this change will be to return a greater portion of fees to a member or to his or her estate.

To consult the relevant rules, see the Member's Manual amendment package enclosed in this mailing or consult the Resource Library section of the Law Society website at www.lawsociety.bc.ca.