Overview of 2016 fees

October 5, 2015

The Benchers have approved a total annual fee of $3,807.09 for 2016, a 1.7% increase over 2015. The practice fee will increase by $65.09 to $2,057.09 and the insurance fee will remain the same at $1,750. The presentation to the Benchers on the 2016 fees and the associated budgets for each fund is available on the Law Society website in the September 25, 2015 Bencher meeting agenda materials. 

 

2016

2015

Difference

%

Law Society operations

$1,663.67

$1,605.46

$58.21

3.6%

The Federation of Law Societies

$30.00

$30.00

-

-

The Canadian Legal Information Institute

$40.00

$36.98

$3.02

8.2%

The Law Foundation of BC (pro bono/access justice)*

$29.57

$30.06

$(0.49)

(1.6)%

REAL (Rural Education & Access to Lawyers)

$4.35

-

$4.35

n/a

Courthouse Libraries BC

$195.00

$195.00

-

-

Lawyers Assistance Program

$67.00

$67.00

-

-

The Advocate

$27.50

$27.50

-

-

Annual practice fee

$2,057.09

$1,992.00

$65.09

3.3%

Lawyers Insurance Fund fee

$1,750.00

$1,750.00

-

-

Total mandatory fee

$3,807.09

$3,742.00

$65.09

1.7%

* The total Law Society contribution to pro bono/access to legal services is $340,000 in 2015 and 2016, as recommended by the Access to Legal Services Advisory Committee in 2014.

Practice fee 

The Benchers have set the 2016 fees pursuant to the Legal Profession Act based on a thorough review of the Law Society’s finances by the Finance and Audit Committee. The Finance and Audit Committee met with senior management to review the proposed 2016 fees and budgets for the General Fund and the Lawyers Insurance Fund. The Finance and Audit Committee also reviewed the fee proposals from a number of organizations and programs supported by Law Society fees, including Courthouse Libraries BC, the Lawyers Assistance Program, The Advocate, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the Canadian Legal Information Institute, the Rural Education and Access to Lawyers (REAL) program and the delivery of pro bono and access to legal services. Based on these meetings and reviews, the Finance and Audit Committee made recommendations to the Benchers regarding the fees for each of these funds and programs. These recommendations were approved by the Benchers at their September 25, 2015 meeting.   

The overall objective when setting the fees is to ensure that the operations are appropriately funded to enable the Law Society to efficiently and effectively fulfill its statutory mandate of protecting the public interest in the administration of justice.

Law Society operations

For the portion of the practice fee that funds the Law Society operations, the Benchers have approved an increase of $58.21 (3.6%). The focus of the 2016 General Fund budget, in addition to delivering the core regulatory programs and meeting the established Key Performance Measures, is to support the continuing initiatives under the Law Society’s strategic plan and mandate, and in particular, supporting regulation to ensure that the Law Society remains an innovative and effective professional regulatory body.

Total revenues (excluding capital), are budgeted at $22.4 million, an increase of $1.3 million over the 2015 budget. Based on the average growth in membership over the last few years, membership is projected to increase to 11,500, 1.68% more than the 2015 projection. PLTC revenue is based on 500 students. 

The total operating expenses are budgeted to $22.4 million, an increase of $1.3 million (6.1%) over the 2015 budget. A large portion of the change is due to structural adjustments to external counsel fee budgets. Over recent years, several trends have emerged that have had a significant impact on cases, increasing the complexity of investigative, discipline and legal defense case files. This has led to a higher level of external counsel fees incurred, which is expected to continue. The remaining increase in expenses is due to market based staff compensation adjustments based on external market benchmarking. These increases have been offset by other savings, with overall staffing decreasing by 1.2 FTE staff positions, and various savings in other areas. 

There are one-time costs which will be allocated from General Fund reserve, related to the Proactive Practice Standards project and the potential notaries merger. The use of reserve for these one-time costs allows these to be funded without increasing the annual practice fee.

Trust administration fee

For 2016, the trust administration fee (TAF) will remain unchanged at $15 per transaction. TAF revenue has been stable over the past three years, and TAF reserve levels will be monitored to ensure the program is being funded and has appropriate reserve levels.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada 

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada provides a national voice for provincial and territorial law societies on important national and international issues. The Law Society’s contribution to the Federation is estimated to remain at $30 per member for 2016.

The Canadian Legal Information Institute

The Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) is a not-for-profit organization initiated by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. CanLII’s goal is to make primary sources of Canadian law accessible for free on its website at www.canlii.org. All provincial and territorial law societies have committed to provide funding to CanLII. The Law Society’s contribution is estimated to be $40.00 per member in 2016.

Courthouse Libraries BC

Courthouse Libraries BC (CLBC) provides lawyers and the public in BC with access to legal information, as well as training and support in finding and using legal information. The Law Foundation of BC and the Law Society both contribute to CLBC funding. The Law Society’s contribution for 2016 remains the same at $195 per member. Through its digital collections, website content and training, the library provides practice support for lawyers across the province; and for the public through the Clicklaw website, public library legal collections, as well as individual assistance.

Pro bono funding 

The Law Foundation includes Law Society funding in its financial support to organizations offering pro bono legal services to the public. As recommended by the Access to Legal Services Advisory Committee, the Law Society 2016 contribution to pro bono and access to legal service programs continues at $340,000.

Lawyers Assistance Program 

The Lawyers Assistance Program (LAP) provides confidential outreach, education, support and referrals to lawyers and other members of BC’s legal community. Law Society funding for LAP in 2016 remains at $67 per member.

The Advocate 

The 2016 subscription fee for The Advocate, distributed bi-monthly to all BC lawyers, is $27.50, unchanged from 2015.

Rural Education and Access to Lawyers 

The Rural Education and Access to Lawyers (REAL) initiative is funded by the Law Society and the Law Foundation, with in-kind support from the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch. The REAL initiative is a set of programs established to address current and future projected shortages of legal services in small communities and rural areas of the province, and improve access to justice. The program supports the placement of summer law students in small communities and rural areas of BC, with a goal to encourage future lawyers to practice in these areas. 

The Law Society contribution for 2012 to 2015 was funded through the reserve, but it is recommended that any further contributions be recommended to be funded through the practice fee. The 2016 contribution will be $50,000 ($4.35 per member).

Lawyers Insurance Fund fee 

The Benchers have resolved to maintain the annual insurance fee at $1,750 for 2016. The number of claims and potential claims increased in 2015, and annual payments are trending up, but overall the program is managing within the existing insurance fee and investment revenue. Effective management, good investment returns and solid reserves have made it possible to hold the Law Society’s insurance fee at $1,750 since 2011. Actuarial advice indicates that, based on industry standards, existing net reserves are at appropriate levels. However, the risks presented by the Limitation Act, the Wills, Estates and Succession Act and probate rules, and to a lesser extent, the Family Law Act, are expected to give rise to additional future exposures for the fund. These new risks, higher costs, and lower investment returns in the future, may require an increase to the fee in future years. 

Total fee comparison with other law societies*

chart: Total fee comparison with other law societies 

* 2016 Law Society of British Columbia practice fee compared to 2016 projections or 2015 practice fee of other Law Societies, increased by 2%

For more information 

If you have questions about the fees or the financial information in this notice, please contact Jeanette McPhee, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Trust Regulation, by telephone at 604.443.5712 (toll-free at 1.800.903.5300) or email at jmcphee@lsbc.org