Message from the CEO
This Annual Report describes our work in 2013 to ensure that the people of Ontario continue to be served by lawyers and paralegals who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct, as well as how we strengthened our focus on providing greater access to justice.
In 2013, the Law Society made tremendous progress supporting the priorities set by the 2011-2015 board of governors. In fact, between 2011 and 2013, we have completed 40 initiatives and policy changes in fulfilment of our mandate to protect the public interest.
Some of this year’s achievements are highlighted below with more detail throughout this site.
We continued a review of our operations, begun in 2012, to realign activities and adapt to changing priorities and realities — and to meet new challenges.
Notably, the Corporate Services Division was created to foster greater co-operation and alignment amongst various departments and divisions that provide support services to the organization, our membership and our stakeholders — including the Client Service Centre, Information Systems (I.S.), Human Resources and other shared services.
A new approach to technology
Part of the operational review process included a review of the Law Society’s technology infrastructure.
As a result of that internal audit, an I.S. Executive Committee was formed to review proposed technology-driven projects against specific, pre-set criteria (strategic alignment, operational efficiency and/or effectiveness.)
A Project Management Office was set up in mid-2013 as a dedicated resource to ensure a centralized approach to the management of large, complex Information Systems projects.
And our Information Services department was re-established as I.S. Shared Service and Support and given a mandate to maintain the Law Society’s technical infrastructure while processing change requests for existing applications and managing small-to medium-sized technical projects.
This new operational framework paves the way for a more structured, efficient, prioritized approach to technology, and will ultimately provide an enhanced experience for licensees and the public when dealing with the Law Society.
Managing our financial resources
While we need to meet our strategic priorities, we also need to honour our obligations to manage financial resources as effectively as possible. The current economy continues to be challenging, but we have taken steps to ensure our finances are well managed, including both finding operational efficiencies and reducing costs.
In 2013, we were pleased to deliver a budget with a modest annual fee increase of 0.8 per cent for lawyers and no increase for paralegals.
Also in 2013, for the first time, we developed a medium-term financial plan to accompany the budget for the coming year — for the remainder of the bencher term and through to 2016. This will ensure operational sustainability and ongoing support of our core functions.
Implementing tribunal reform
The Law Society implemented a series of tribunal reforms which further our commitment to a hearing process that is transparent, fair and effective for both the public and lawyers and paralegals.
David A. Wright was appointed in June as the Law Society’s first full-time independent non-bencher Tribunal Chair. He is supported by two part-time Vice Chairs who are elected benchers.
Convocation also appointed 10 new appointee adjudicators to the Hearing Division in September — six lawyers, three paralegals and a lay appointee. All have previous experience as adjudicators and, collectively, they enhance the capacity of the Tribunal to provide adjudication in French and English.
Focus on Access to Justice
The Law Society strengthened its focus on access to justice in 2013 by supporting the Treasurer’s Advisory Group on Access to Justice (TAG). Established by Treasurer Thomas Conway, TAG is focused on fostering change and collaboration by working in tandem with various partners. We have also dedicated internal resources to concentrate on this important priority.
Further, as a part of the operational review, we consolidated departments that could benefit from an integrated approach to supporting access to justice — those engaged in policy development, communication, equity and public affairs.
We were also pleased to see new legislation passed in December — Bill 111, Modernizing Regulation of the Legal Profession Act, 2013. The new Act enhances Law Society governance by increasing the number of elected paralegal benchers from two to five. Those and other amendments, including the provisions enabling Tribunal reform, are helping to pave the way for effective and accessible legal services in Ontario.
A Top 100 Employer
Finally, I’m proud to say The Law Society was recognized as one of the Greater Toronto Area’s Top Employers for the eighth year in a row in an annual competition that identifies exemplary workplaces.