I invite you to explore the Law Society’s Annual Report to learn more about our mission to be a leading legal regulator committed to protecting the public interest. I am pleased with the significant advances we have made in several areas, summarized below.
The work of the Professional Regulation (PR) Division focusses on the protection of the public interest, through the resolution and investigation of complaints about Ontario's lawyers and paralegals conduct, competence and capacity.
Throughout the year, steps were taken to streamline processes and increase efficiencies within the PR Division, culminating with a new organizational structure implemented in February 2017.
The key changes include a larger Intake Resolution department, capable of more robust, early triage and resolution of complaints; a merger of the Complaints Resolution and Investigations departments; the creation of new multi-functional Enforcement teams; and the creation of a Technology and Evidence Control department to enhance our ability to receive, produce, manage, and control electronic data.
The Law Society is also working to improve the process by which Law Society policies are developed, approved and communicated.
As a leading regulator, we seek to be a role model for our licensees and other organizations.
For the 11th consecutive year, we were named one of Greater Toronto’s Top Employers. I am proud that our efforts to create an inclusive, professional workplace have been recognized. As the CEO I have the privilege and the pleasure to work daily with a remarkable staff of highly skilled and engaged individuals.
To give us an accurate picture of who we are, the Law Society conducted a Diversity Census and Inclusion Survey with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. The majority of respondents feel included in the workplace, with a very strong representation of females, ethnic groups and persons with disabilities.
We also conducted an Engagement and Enablement Survey. The survey focused on enablement as the key to encouraging people to perform at their best every day. Overall, the results showed that we have a committed, proud, positive workforce who feels that their efforts make a difference.
We are committed to the effective management of our financial resources.
After three years of unchanged annual fees for lawyers, and four years of unchanged fees for paralegals, we introduced an increase of $50 for both. However, we were pleased to offer those who enrolled in the Law Society’s Annual Pre-Authorized Payment Plan a discount equal to the annual fee increase.
I am confident that the budget set for 2017 (View a PDF version of the 2017 budget) will enable the Law Society to continue to advance our key strategic priorities laid out by our governing body, while supporting our important regulatory programs in the public interest.
We are progressing with our implementation of the three year technology plan, which includes a redesign of our website, an overhaul of the Licensee Database, and a number of enhancements to the Licensee Portal and the LSUC Store.
Redesign of the Law Society’s website is currently underway to better engage the public, professions and stakeholders and to build a strategic communications tool that effectively supports the organization’s core work.
The Licensee Database redesign initiative will focus on the functionality of our processes and systems that contain licensee data. The goals are to improve staff efficiency through access to one central system, to allow licensees a range of self-service options, and to improve access to justice via our public directories.
The Licensee Portal has a new and more consistent look and feel with improved functionality in several areas. We also launched the LSUC Store in May, providing members with greater functionality and convenience through a dedicated e-Commerce platform.
The Law Society continued to advance its commitment to provide communications and services in the French language to licensing candidates, licensees and the public under the Law Society's French Language Services Policy and by-laws. It also continued its collaborative work with the French Language Services Commissioner under the protocol established to address complaints related to French language services and to make appropriate systemic and proactive changes.
The Law Society has extended its Programme de pratique du droit (PPD), the French language equivalent of the Law Practice Program, for an additional two years with a commitment to engage in a comprehensive review of the licensing requirements.
As we begin 2017, I am extremely fortunate to work with talented staff dedicated to fulfilling our mandate. We are grateful to the many legal organizations and legal community partners with whom we engage and whose input is so valuable. I would also like to acknowledge and thank our Benchers in Convocation and our new Treasurer, Paul Schabas. Under their leadership, I am confident that the Law Society will continue to meet the obligation to regulate the professions in the public interest in an increasingly dynamic legal landscape.