Law Times

April 15, 2019

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LAW TIMES 2 COVERING ONTARIO'S LEGAL SCENE | APRIL 15, 2019 nior partner at Torkin Manes LLP Barristers & Solicitors and a bencher running for re-election at the LSO. "There has been a lot of con- cern by the law society about lawyers quoting block fees and then charging extras on top of those block fees. . . . So, the law society passed a bylaw," he says. "The law society has been get- ting complaints for years about advertising block fees and that led to the rule." The rule also said the ads must state "that harmonized sales tax and the permitted dis- bursements . . . are not included in the price," that the lawyer "strictly adheres to the price for every transaction;" "in the case of a purchase transaction, the price includes the price for act- ing on both the purchase and on one mortgage;" and, "in the case of a sale transaction, the price in- cludes the price of acting on the discharge of the first mortgage." "There are lots of lawyers around the province who are quoting block fees. That leads to a whole other question — and not one that the rule addresses — and that is, 'What kind of ser- vice are the clients getting when the lawyers are low-balling fees? How good is the lawyering?" says Troister. For example, an advertisement submitted by a Law Times reader and shown to Troister offered "free mobile signing ($300 value)" and a $100 credit in exchange for online reviews. In smaller print at the bottom of the advertisement, the ad says, "Our disbursements (if applicable) comply with LSUC Rule 4.2-2.1" and lists a series of options, including title insur- ance. It also says that the adver- tised rates "apply to a residential single-family dwelling on city services, being vacant on clos- ing with purchase price under $1,000,000 with one first mort- gage on a standard transaction and no unforseen [sic] circum- stances. Fee is valid if our firm is hired and receives the Agree- ment of Purchase and Sale and mortgage instructions at least 5 business days prior to closing." Troister says there would need to be more investigation to know if such ads comply with the rules, and that he has not heard of anyone being up- charged with fixed or block fees. Nonetheless, he says, the ad rais- es questions. "In volume practices, it's common that lawyers don't get the mortgage instructions until less than five days before closing. So, the question is, once you've already hired the lawyer, and you're in the door, if your lawyer is trying to get the mortgage in- structions from the lender and they don't come five days before closing, what's your fee? That's leaving aside this whole thing about, 'If you give us an online review we'll give you $100 off your legal fee.' That I've never seen before and it offends me, frankly," he says. "I worry that basically, law firms that are ad- vertising f lat rates have turned the real estate transaction into a commodity." Martin Rumack, who prac- tises at Law Firm of Martin K.I. Rumack in Toronto, says the way the ad is presented strikes him as unprofessional, particularly the slashed or discounted prices. He says his opinion of the ad comes from looking at how other pro- fessions advertise as well as the rules imposed on the personal injury bar. "Different lawyers charge dif- ferent fees; that's fair competition," says Rumack, likening lawyers more to a doctor than a retailer. "But I don't understand why the law society isn't doing any- thing about lawyers who are do- ing that type of advertising. . . . If you walked into a doctor's of- fice and saw a 'suggested fee' and then an arrow through it with 'our fee,' what would you think?" Ian Speers, a Toronto sole practitioner who is also run- ning for bencher, says that while nothing prohibits discounts in exchange for online reviews, there has been some scrutiny on practices such as paying to be considered for awards. "Paying for reviews under- mines the integrity of the review; it's not something I'm a fan of. It doesn't ref lect an honest ap- praisal of service," says Speers. "What does the public think if they think lawyers are paying for online reviews? People cater to different markets and that's fine. The question is to make sure that there is proper integrity." LT NEWS Continued from page 1 Debate remains around new rules Election model raises issues Continued from page 1 looks forward to working together with the law society in the future on legal issues that affect the people of Ontario," said an email statement. Nunziata, a former member of Parliament, would not re- veal which MPPs he had spoken to. Still, Nunziata says he thinks that issues such as low voter turnout, a budget deficit and the divide over the statement of principles requirement could draw the attention of Queen's Park. "The fact that the public is not on the side of lawyers — be- cause most people have a negative opinion of lawyers — there are politicians that would say, 'Well, let's review what's going on here.' For one, conservatives do not believe in running deficits in principle," says Nunziata. Rebecca Bromwich, a faculty member at Carleton Univer- sity in Ottawa who is running for bencher, has studied the topic of self-regulation and its ability to deal with complicated issues such as money laundering. She concluded, in that research, that government should support self-regulation in the public interest. She says she is not privy to any comments from MPs about the LSO, and said that although Canada's self-regulation model differs from other countries, the public and political will has typically not supported changing the model. Bromwich also said there are some positives to self-regula- tion, and that critics of self-regulation may not consider how a government would undertake the same task. She says that centralising regulation in the government might be at odds with a more conservative political view. "I think every election is important. I think it would be great if lawyers think it is important," she says. "Benchers re- duced the size of Convocation before this election, so it seems like if there are generally views of reducing the size of the regulatory body, most people seem to be the same page. It's whether the government should be the one doing it." Nunziata says the LSO is an outlier compared to profes- sions that are regulated by an appointed board, rather than a large election, such as the one taking place now. "It's important for lawyers to vote, it's important for the law society to be truly representative of lawyers and paralegals," he says. "Yes, one of the mandates is to govern in the public interest, but I think there is also an obligation to make sure the needs of lawyers and paralegals are addressed as well." The law society's governance task force is currently consid- ering options to shrink the number of benchers in Convoca- tion. Susan Tonkin said in an e-mail on behalf of the LSO say- ing, "The Law Society governs Ontario's lawyers and parale- gals in the public interest. Self-regulation strengthens the in- dependence of the bar and protects the rule of law, which are two critical underpinnings of a democratic society. We look forward to continuing to work with the government and other legal stakeholders as we continue to fulfill our mandate." Several examples put forth for a call for comment by the governance task force suggest decreasing the number of elect- ed benchers, which would proportionately give appointed benchers more sway. At the time of the call for comment, in November 2018, Mulroney said in a letter that the provincial government "be- lieves that it is vital that governing bodies are streamlined and efficient," adding that her ministry would "fully endorse ef- forts to reduce the total number of benchers at Convocation to facilitate quicker and more effective decision-making and cost effectiveness." Nunziata points out that the provincial government re- cently cut the size of Toronto's city council to 25 members from 47. One skeptic of the LSO's governance model has announced a run for office: Anita Anand, a law professor at the Univer- sity of Toronto, said on April 2 that she is seeking the federal Liberal Party nomination in the riding of Oakville, Ont. An- and's' research into the topic was recently publicized through a newspaper article titled "Ontario's law society needs to ad- dress problems in self-regulation." "Self-regulation opens the possibility of conf licts of inter- est: lawyers governing themselves may, in making rules for the profession, make decisions that benefit themselves rather than the general public, who may be unable to protect their own interests," she wrote in the article. "As a result of these concerns, both Britain and Australia have moved away from self-regulation." LT To learn more, call 1-800-410-1013 or visit Just like our New Home Program New Condo Select is quick and easy Selected new condominium developments in Ontario qualify for an easy title insurance 1 application process. • Prepopulated underwriting • Streamlined searches • Saves time and money ® Registered trademark of Lawyers' Professional Indemnity Company. © 2019 Lawyers' Professional Indemnity Company 250 Yonge Street, Suite 3101, P.O. Box 3, Toronto, ON M5B 2L7 1 The TitlePLUS policy is underwritten by Lawyers' Professional Indemnity Company (LAWPRO ® ). Please refer to the policy for full details, including actual terms and conditions. Untitled-3 1 2019-01-16 10:35 AM

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