Reduce Annual Fees for Lawyers and Paralegals in Ontario

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Background: 

Every year, lawyers and paralegals licensed in the province of Ontario have to pay their annual fees. This is a common practice in many jurisdictions around the world. For example, in US jurisdictions, fees can range from $60 to $275, as this tweet points out: https://twitter.com/RobKittredge/status/1214302021882404870?s=20

Problem: 

Currently the legal regulator for Ontario, the Law Society of Ontario, asks for lawyers in private practice to pay $2,334.58, including 1,728.00 for legal insurance. This is an extremely high and unrealistic cost on Ontario legal professionals. According to the 2018 Annual Report, the operating revenue from fees is currently at $95.8 million. Fees vary, depending if the lawyer is non-practicing or in-house. (http://annualreport.lso.ca/pdf/AnnualFinancialStatements2018-EN.pdf

So what's the problem? The fees are unsustainable in 2020 for lawyers and paralegals, especially junior lawyers/paralegals with massive school debt, unemployed legal professionals, non-corporate lawyers/paralegals, and sole practitioners paired with other obligations like housing in urban cities and the rising costs of living. 

Impact:

We ask the Benchers in the Audit & Finance committee to reconsider the fee structure and have the structure reflect the current realities of lawyering in 2020. Currently the problems are as follows (but not limited to):

- If a lawyer and paralegal is unable to pay for the annual fee under a lump sum, they can pay under a monthly plan but it will incur costly admin costs

- Monthly fees cannot be paid via credit card but directly from the chequing account; thus assuming the funds are already available for the lawyer & paralegal (this option applies if you can’t pay lump sum annual fee)

- Junior lawyers and senior lawyers pay the same flat fee structure. We ask to reconsider into a progressive fee rate.

Lawyers and paralegals have no other choice but to increase the prices that they offer their clients in order to offset the cost. Ultimately, the public loses out with increased lawyer and paralegal fees because our rates are inaccessible. As a result, this feeds to the Access to Justice Problem in Ontario & Canada. Lastly, lawyers and paralegals who decide to go solo are burdened with the overheard costs to maintain their legal license at a costly fee while building a client base. 

We ask for the Audit & Finance committee at the Law Society of Ontario to re-open this matter and explore realistic and sustainable lawyer and paralegal fees for modern Ontario society. 

What can I do? 

Please sign this petition. We ask you to circulate this petition among your lawyer and paralegal friends, alongside the general Canadian public. We are lawyers and paralegals who are passionate about providing accessible legal services for everyone.

The goal is to present this petition to the Audit & Finance committee and place pressure on the members to re-open this issue. I hope to close this petition by the end of January 31st, 2020 in order to deliver the petition to the Audit & Finance committee as soon as possible. 

I'll keep you posted if dates change.