Practice Standards Committee policy on costs

The Practice Standards Committee requested publication to the profession of its policy on assessing costs for lawyers subject to practice reviews or remedial programs.

Rule 3-18 of the Law Society Rules states:

The Practice Standards Committee may order that a lawyer pay to the Society the cost of a practice review, action or remedial program ordered or allowed under this Division, and may set and extend the date for payment.

The Practice Standards Committee considered its mandate under Rule 3-18 and established this policy to govern the ordering of costs. This policy is based on the following principles:

  • There is a positive duty on all lawyers to become and remain competent. This requires lawyers to be knowledgeable in substantive law, practice and procedures in the areas of law in which they practise and to organize and maintain their practices to provide an effective and efficient quality of service to clients.
  • A lawyer who allows his or her practice to fall below acceptable standards and who will directly benefit from the "investigation" and subsequent advice and remedial work, should contribute to the costs of having the problems in the practice investigated and rectified. ("Lawyer" refers to those lawyers concerning whom action has been taken by the Committee under Rule 3-12(3).)
  • It is the goal of the Practice Standards Committee to assist lawyers to identify the sources of problems in their practices and to enable lawyers to implement changes in their practices swiftly, respond to remedial work promptly, and pass through the program as quickly as possible.
  • The Committee will order costs as an allocation of financial responsibility and not as a penalty.
  • In ordinary circumstances, travel and accommodation expenses will not be assessed because to do so would be unfair to lawyers outside Vancouver.
  • The Committee will aim for full recovery from the lawyer of the operating costs of investigations and remedial programs, less travel costs, while retaining the discretion to reduce the recovery that can be expected in certain circumstances, such as hardship.

The Committee recognizes that it may be difficult for some lawyers to pay costs. Thus, all lawyers will be given six months in which to pay the costs ordered. The Committee retains a general discretion to reduce the total costs, set monthly payments or extend the time to pay in certain circumstances, such as financial hardship.

Determining whether costs are ordered against a particular lawyer

Costs may be ordered against a lawyer unless the "investigation" reveals that no remedial action is required.

Determining the amount of costs and payment schedule

The total expenditures by the Law Society for each "investigation," excluding travel and accommodation but including the amount paid to an independent practising lawyer (at $100 per hour) and/or attributed to a staff lawyer (at $85 per hour), vary from $500 to $6,000. Based on this experience and the wish of many lawyers to know how much they may be expected to pay, the Practice Standards Committee agreed upon a policy for costs to be ordered for practice reviews and meetings with lawyers to discuss concerns about their practice. The costs will be as set out in the table at the bottom of this page.

The Committee will formally make the order for costs at the same time it reviews the practice review or other "investigation" report and the lawyer's response.

Costs relating to practice reviews and meetings with lawyers
 Full practice review, normally with two reviewers 

$ 3,000  

 Partial practice review, normally with one reviewer  $ 1,000  
 Meeting to discuss concerns about a lawyer's practice $ 500  

Remedial programs costs

This part of the Policy is in effect for all files opened after June 1997. Another policy is in place for earlier files.

The Practice Standards Committee often recommends a number of both formal and "self-administered" remedial programs, and orders follow-up practice reviews to ascertain the progress of the lawyer. The costs policy under this part will be discussed in two sections: formal remedial courses and self-administered recommendations.

Formal remedial courses

The Practice Standards Committee currently offers eight remedial studies programs. The table on page 14 lists each of these courses; the number of assignments; the expected duration of the course; the estimated marking time; and the estimated costs of materials the lawyer must purchase, if he or she does not already have them.

While these courses are available to assist lawyers in bringing themselves up to date, the ultimate duty is on the lawyer to become competent. The lawyer will be given a copy of the requested course but must find an acceptable lawyer to mark the course at the lawyer's expense. That lawyer will then be given a copy of the answers. Once the course is successfully completed, Practice Standards staff will conduct a follow-up practice review at a cost of $1,000 plus GST to ascertain if the course has had a positive impact on the practice and also whether progress has been made in other areas of law.

The Committee will assess costs at the time the follow-up practice review report for that program is considered by the Committee (with the exception of professional responsibility, which will be assessed at the conclusion of that program).

Costs relating to remedial studies courses
  Course Assign-
ments
Duration

Estimated marking time (hours)

Estimated costs: extra materials
LOMAS 1 2 months 2.5 $275
Professional Responsibility 2 2 months 2.5 -
Civil Litigation 4 7 months 10.0 $600
Corporate/Commercial  5 7 months 10.0 $475
Criminal Law 4 4 months 8.0 $500
Family Law 5 8 months 10.0 $750
Real Estate 5 6 months 10.0 $550
Wills & Estates 4 6 months 8.0 $600

Self-administered recommendations and subsequent follow-up practice reviews

Self-administered recommendations commonly include reducing the number of files the office handles, restricting the practice to certain areas, upgrading certain office systems and documenting files more completely. These recommendations always include a follow-up practice review to confirm progress and satisfaction of the recommendations, at a cost of $1,000 plus GST.

The Committee will assess these costs at the time it considers the follow-up practice review.