Stakeholder Update – December 11, 2020-Before we close out this very notable year, we wanted to provide you with an update on decisions and amendments that Convocation has made recently and some new deadlines that apply to licensees. We encourage you to share this information in your communications with your members and colleagues.Please note: 2021 Annual Fee invoices will be issued through licensees’ Portal accounts by mid- January 2021 rather than in December 2020. This change in timing aligns with the LSO’s move to a harmonized date of March 31 for annual fee payment, annual report filing, and CPD requirement reporting. See “Strategic change measures” in this Update.2021 budget approvedOn November 27, Convocation approved the Law Society’s 2021 budget, which will reduce annual fees for licensees, continues the operational focus on proportionate regulation and burden reduction, and decreases the Society’s overall spending on operations.Further, the additional levy to replenish the Compensation Fund has been eliminated. After significant claims experience in 2014 to 2016 due to some major defalcations, an additional $5 million was levied from lawyers in each of the last three years to replenish the fund balance of the Compensation Fund, which had fallen below its minimum benchmark required under the Law Society’s fund balance management policy.As a result of these measures, the annual fees that Ontario lawyers and paralegals will pay will decrease for a second year in a row. In 2021, lawyers will see a decrease of $193, for an annual fee of $1,873, while paralegals will see a decrease of $42, for an annual fee of $964.As well, the current licensing process fee for lawyer candidates remains the same as it has been for the past seven years; Paralegal licensing fees also remain unchanged.Budgetary expenses facilitate the LSO’s ability to regulate the legal professions in the public interest. This includes funding the Compensation Fund, which provides for payments to be made to members of the public who have lost money because of the dishonesty of a member, and responding to strategic issues and delivering programs such as the Practice Management Helpline, the Member Assistance Program and other resources.For more information, see the report to Convocation on the 2021 budget from the Audit and Finance Committee.2021 Annual Fee COVID-19 Deferral OptionConvocation approved an annual fee deferral option that would allow licensees most impacted by the pandemic to apply for a deferral of 2021 Annual Fees to 2022.This option is available where the licensee’s annual fees are paid directly by the licensee or are paid on the licensee’s behalf by a small legal firm. Those eligible include:
- Licensees in sole practices licensed in 2018 or earlier whose gross revenue for 2020 from the practice of law or the provision of legal services has declined by more than 50% in comparison to that of the 2019 calendar year, and whose gross revenue from the practice of law or provision of legal services in the 2020 calendar year is less than $50,000
- Licensees licensed in 2018 or earlier, practising in firms of two to five licensees whose gross revenue for 2020 from the firm’s practice of law or the provision of legal services has declined by more than 50% in comparison to that of the 2019 calendar year, and the firm’s gross revenue from the practice of law or provision of legal services in the 2020 calendar year is less than $50,000 times the number of licensees in the firm
- Licensees first licensed in the years from 2019 to 2021, if the licensee’s gross income from all sources in 2020 is less than $50,000.
There will be a simple application process with licensees attesting to meeting the eligibility criteria and no requirement for the submission of supporting documentation. More information about the process and the application for deferral will be available the week of January 11 – the same week Annual Fee invoices will be issued via licensees’ Portal accounts.Licensees not meeting the criteria, but seeking some form of assistance, may opt for the monthly Pre-Authorized Payment plan to smooth the payment of annual fees over the year. In addition, those licensees who are not working or on parental leave should report their change in status through the Portal in order to be eligible to pay annual fees at the 25% fee category.For those licensees approved for the deferral of their 2021 Annual Fee, when it becomes payable in 2022, licensees may opt for the monthly Pre-authorized Payment plan to spread the combined payment of 2021 and 2022 annual fees over the year.Strategic change measuresConvocation approved by-law amendments to implement previously approved strategic change measures. The amendments reflect broader burden reduction efforts, which include seeking to simplify the Law Society’s by-laws to make them easier for both licensees and for the Law Society to administer.The by-law amendments:
- Establish a new harmonized March 31 deadline for annual fee payment, annual report filing, and CPD requirement reporting; streamlining suspension processes and eliminating late fees. Licensees are still required to report their 2020 CPD hours by December 31, 2020.
- Implement Convocation’s decisions from October 2020, to:
- Remove the annual fee exemption for life members (licensees who have practised law in Ontario for 50 years or more). Licensees who, as of January 1, 2021, have met the requirements for life membership will continue to be exempt from paying the annual fee.
- Create a new fee category for licensees over 65 who do not practise law or provide legal services at 10% of the annual fee and are approved by the Law Society, effective January 1, 2021, removing the current fee exemption for these licensees.
Revocation of licences for long-term administrative suspensions (10+ years)Beginning in 2021, licensees who have been administratively suspended for more than 10 years will be subject to summary revocation of their licence in accordance with section 48(1) of the Act.Those who are currently administratively suspended and who wish to maintain their licence to practise law or provide legal services will need to take steps to reinstate their licence.Changes to Foreign Legal Consultant PermitsAs of November 6, 2020, Foreign Legal Consultant Permit applicants no longer require proof of reciprocity. Convocation has approved this in-principle and it is anticipated that the by-law amendments will follow in early 2021.Information on the application process and requirements are available on the LSO website. Mandatory CPD EDI Hours: complete and report by year-endLicensees who are subject to the CPD requirement, must complete three Professionalism Hours of accredited Equality, Diversity and Inclusion programming (EDI Hours) by the end of 2020. Beginning in 2021, licensees are required to complete one EDI Hour each year.CPD Hours for 2020 must be reported by December 31, 2020. Moving forward, CPD for 2021 will need to be reported by March 31, 2022. See “Strategic change measures” in this Update.The Law Society offers a variety of free, accredited programs. For more information see our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion requirement webpage.Nominations open for 2021 Law Society AwardsEach year the Law Society invites nominations for the Law Society Awards. Awards for lawyers include the Law Society Medal, the Lincoln Alexander Award and the Laura Legge Award. Paralegals are eligible for the William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award. Both lawyers and paralegals are eligible for the J. Shirley Denison Award.Nominations, which close on January 20, 2021, are encouraged for members from all communities, practice areas, firm sizes, and regions across the province. To learn more, or to submit a nomination, visit our website.Human Rights Award: Nomination deadline extended to December 31The deadline for nominations for the Law Society’s Human Rights Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the advancement of human rights and/or the promotion of the rule of law provincially, nationally or internationally, has been extended to December 31. The award will be granted for devotion to the advancement of human rights and the rule of law over a long term or for a single outstanding act of service. For more information and to submit a nomination, please check the Award’s webpage.