There is a sociologist who believes that the foundation of democracy is bureaucracy. I am not sure if I agree with this, since communism seems to have spawned its own set of inane rules. Many are referred to in The Beggar’s Opera.
But I had a recent encounter with The Law Society of Upper Canada that left me scratching my head.
Now that I’m a realtor, I see no point in paying the Law Society the $ 1,000 in fees they charge members each year to NOT practice law. (This is the cost of being placed on the non-practising list.)
After talking to a colleague who made the same decision, I learned that all that happens is that you are administratively suspended. If you want to practice law again, you pay LSUC only one year’s back-fees, regardless of how many years you’ve been on the administratively suspended list. This restores you to the active practice list.
Lots of people do it, apparently–I discovered that another pal of mine was on the suspended list for seven years before he took a job at Justice. Silly me; I’d paid the fees for years.
But this year, I could think of all kinds of things I’d rather spend that money on and so I made the decision not to pay the fees and was placed on the administrative suspension list in May.
Last week I received an email from LSUC that said I hadn’t filed my Annual Report for 2011 and that if this was not filed by December 31, I would face administrative suspension for non-filing. It provided a link which allowed me to file the report online.
I emailed LSUC back right away. “I am already administratively suspended for non-payment of fees,” I explained. “Do I still have to file the report?”
“Yes,” the law clerk wrote back. “We expect all lawyers to file their reports, even those who aren’t in practice.”
Now the Annual Report requires you to set out aspects of your law practice, including how many hours you spent in certain practice areas and in continuing education, and details of your trust account, etc. None of these apply to a lawyer who isn’t practising law. And so I called the law clerk to make sure there was no misunderstanding . (He was very nice, by the way).
“But I’d be putting ‘not applicable’ in all the boxes,” I said. “I’m in real estate now. I couldn’t practice law if I wanted to; I’m suspended.”
“I know,” he said. “You don’t actually have to fill out the forms, if you don’t want to. It just means that you’ll be suspended a second time for non-filing reports as well as for non-payment of fees. But if you decide you want to practice law again, all you have to do is fill out the reports for all the years you were suspended and the suspension will be removed.”
“Wow, that could be a while,” I said. “It sounds like it’s easier just to fill out the forms every year.”
“Probably,” he agreed.
And so, shaking my head somewhat, I went to the Law Society’s website and attempted to log in so that I could complete the online forms.
“Wrong user name. Invalid password,” the site responded.
I called the clerk again. “I can’t seem to log on,” I said. “The website doesn’t recognize my password or my user name, but it’s been quite a while; maybe I have the wrong ones. Can you check for me?”
“Oh,” he said. “That’s probably because you’re suspended.” He went back to the records and confirmed that the password and user name I’d entered were correct but no longer valid.
“Is there anyway I can go online to file this report then?” I asked.
“It doesn’t look like it.”
“Okay,” I said slowly. “Since the deadline is December 31, can you mail me a hard copy of the forms, or PDF them to me, so I don’t get suspended for non-filing?”
“Sure,” he said. “But the forms won’t be out until January.”