In September, 2000 the Law Society sent all practising lawyers in B.C. a voluntary survey on the challenges facing the legal profession, their personal challenges in the practice of law and on Law Society performance. The objective was to gather information on member views to assist the Benchers in setting priorities for the Law Society and in evaluating the performance of the Society.
The results may also prove a useful reference for B.C. lawyers, in particular data on hours worked in the profession and income from the practice of law.
For a basic breakdown of the survey results, see the Law Society website. Additional commentary on the survey from Adam Whitcombe, Director of Statistics and Development, will be featured in the March-April Advocate.
The overall response rate was good for a voluntary written survey. In total, just over 2,000 members or about 23% of practising members completed the survey, meaning the survey results should be accurate to +/- 1.92%, 19 times out of 20.
Biggest challenges for the profession
When asked what they see as the biggest challenge facing the legal profession over the next five years, 30% of respondents said the affordability of legal services, 22% cited competition within the profession and 13% said public perception of the legal profession. Multidisciplinary practice and the globalization of practice were also identified as chief challenges (11% each).
At a personal level, 40% of respondents indicated that balancing professional and personal life is the biggest challenge, while making a reasonable income was noted by 27% and planning for retirement by 12%. Keeping current with changes in the law was noted by another 10% and competition from other lawyers by 4%.
Law Society performance
In rating Law Society performance in ensuring that the public is well served by a competent, independent and honourable legal profession, 57% of respondents ranked performance as good or excellent, 33% as adequate, 8% as fair and 2% as poor.
The highest rankings were given for the Society's performance in setting ethical standards (66% ranking it excellent or good), followed by performance in investigating complaints and setting standards for competent practice. The lowest performance rating was given for promotion and protection of lawyers' interests (40% ranking it excellent or good).
Work and income
Over 70% of respondents practised law for more than 40 hours a week (one-third over 50 hours a week).
The net income before taxes from the practice of law was less than $60,000 for 31% of respondents (less than $30,000 for 9%); between $60,000 and $100,000 for 36% of respondents and $100,000 or more for 35% (over $200,000 for 12%). A breakdown of income by year of call, location and practice status is available on the Law Society website.
For further information on the survey, contact Adam Whitcombe at email@example.com.